The Day After

This morning I awoke with a knot in the pit of my stomach.

I feel like I should have done more.

Most of this past year, I have been focusing my mental energy inward. I was growing a baby, preparing myself for labor, trying not to panic about the logistics of bringing another member into our family.

I did not have energy for the political.

I knew I was with her from the beginning.

The other candidate’s speeches were incomprehensible and tailored to incite rather than to unite.

I am the person who called sexism and racism. Probably the one you brushed off because I didn’t say it loud enough.

Today I am in mourning. I am grief stricken. I am outraged. I want to give Hillary Clinton a big hug and tell her that I was honored to vote for her yesterday. That her name was even on the ballot was a huge victory, and I know how hard she fought. But I also know that it is not enough.

It is not enough in a world where a woman has to be perfect to compete in an arena where men are routinely corrupt.

It is not enough in a world where people of color don’t feel safe in their homes.

It is not enough when LGBTQ people are shot down in what is meant to be a safe place.

It is not enough, and I didn’t say it loud enough.

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Meet Rufus, Our Tiniest Dino

He's about one week old in this photo. And, Hey! That's the blanket I knit him.
He’s about one week old in this photo. Also, taken at night.

We added a new member to our family two weeks ago. On August 17th, 2016, Rufus King was born. He weighed 10lbs 9oz and was 21.5 inches long, making him my biggest baby by 1 whole ounce. (If you’re keeping score at home, you’ll also know that August 17th is my wedding anniversary.)

Rufus was born at our local freestanding birth center. We were privelaged have a lovely water birth with zero complications.

Both he and I are doing fantastic. We’ve spent the last two weeks getting to know one another and nursing nearly non-stop. He and I are working on easing back into day-to-day life.

I’m still working on all of my projects from soap to novels to freelance writing, and Rufus will be my constant companion for the next few months. I am so excited he is here!

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Shampoo Bar 101

french vanilla soap topped with chamomile
french vanilla soap topped with chamomile

While I was developing my soap recipe, it was important to me to create a bar that was so luxurious you couldn’t wait to shower, but also one that could multi-task as a shampoo bar.

You guys, shampoo bars are what originally got me hooked on handmade soaps.

I have naturally curly hair. Sometimes it’s fantastic and defined and curvaceous, and other times it’s big and bushy. It’s thick and dry always.

My hair has little consistency, and literally does whatever the hell it wants depending on the weather. Bonus cell phone selfie! Here’s what it looks like today, on a hot and humid summer day: somewhere between curvaceous and bushy.

case in point: second day hair after straightening my bangs. The bulk of my hair is a little flatter than normal, but my bangs, which started the day straight curled up to match.
case in point: second day hair after straightening my bangs. The bulk of my hair is a little flatter and frizzier than normal, but my bangs, which started the day straight curled up to match.

I gave up trying to control my hair a long time ago. I’ve never been a fan of moose or hairspray or gel. It all just feels gunky and like it weighs my hair down. I gave up on conventional shampoos ages ago too. With liquid shampoos, my hair was either brittle, oily, or so dandruffy I looked like I didn’t wash at all. Gross, right?

Enter the almighty shampoo bar!

Bar soap has literally saved me and my hair from constant flux. While I can’t control how my hair reacts to humidity, I can keep it clean and healthy and my scalp relatively itch free. In my book that’s a huge win.

Here’s the thing though–I had to find the right shampoo bar. And believe me, I tried a lot of them along my quest to greatness.

You need to look for two things in a good shampoo bar:

  1. A high percentage of castor oil. Castor oil is a thick, moisturizing oil that boosts the amount of lather so your hair is easier to wash. Because castor oil is so thick and soft, it isn’t often used above 10% in any bar of soap. Any more than that and the bar can become sticky and soft, but between 5-7% is perfect for a shampoo bar. This will still puts it low on the ingredients list, but if it’s there, it’ll be good for your hair.
  2. Hard cleansing oils like coconut oil or lard, balanced with a moisturizing oil like olive oil. Balancing the hard cleansing oils with the moisturizing oils creates a balanced bar that gets your strands squeaky clean without drying out the natural oils in you hair.

Sounds good, right? But I know what you’re thinking. How’s the transition period? Will I look like I haven’t showered in weeks? The answer is no, of course not. There is a transition, but it’s nothing like going no-poo if that’s what you’re worried about.

What to Expect from Switch to a Shampoo Bar

  • A shampoo bar will clean your hair so well that all the silicon and other gook commercial hair products have left behind will start to wash out.
  • Transitioning from coated to clean hair can make your freshly denuded strands feel extra thirsty and dry for a few days or more
  • Your hair might be a little frizzier or even hold a little more static since it doesn’t have that commercial gook weighing it down
If you have dry hair like me, finishing your shampoo with an apple cider vinegar rinse (ACV). ACV acts like a conditioner and adds moisture and balance back to your hair and scalp. Remember, soap is alkaline, so a little acid goes a long way. An ACV rinse should also help with any dryness, frizziness, or static-cling.

I use about 3 oz ACV and fill the rest of a 24 oz condiment squirt bottle and apply directly to strands and ends after shampooing. I let the rinse set while I finish my shower and then rinse with water before I get out.

I wash my hair about every 2-3  days depending on weather and activity level. I’ll wash it more often if I want my curls to be super defined for a special occasion, but most days, it looks like the selfie above, and I’m cool with that.

Have you ever used a shampoo bar? What were the results?

All of Tiny Dino Soapworks soaps can be used as shampoo bars. All you have to do is choose your favorite scent!
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Hopes and Dreams: Almost A Business

Have you ever had so much on your mind–so much that you are enthusiastic about that you’re having trouble figuring out where to start first?

 

Finished cleaning up my studio this afternoon. Such a pleasant place to work now! #declutter #amwriting

A photo posted by Marla Dawn Holt (@tinydinostudios) on


 

That is me lately. I have been

    • Working on my soap company. All I need are labels and photos and I can open for business!
      • I am taking pre-orders, especially for my pumpkin spice soap.
      • I have so many ideas for this soapy business, and I can’t wait to implement them.
    • Slowly but surely drafting a new novel.
    • Working with a beta reader to improve last year’s novel so I can send it to an agent.
    • Crafting a new website, because I am finally giving that freelance writing thing another go.
      • Seriously, if you need anything written, give me a holler. I’m for hire.
    • Thinking a lot about the intersection of health and fitness and feminism, and especially what that means for me as a plus-sized woman who has always wanted to run far, ride my bike anywhere, and just generally kick ass.
    • Considering doing health coach training so I can write about the above with more authority.
    • Trying to figure out where I would write about all of that. Probably not here or on the other blog. I was thinking maybe on medium.com?
    • Preparing myself to have another baby.
    • Reading really stupid romance novels, and entertaining the idea of writing humorous/feminist reviews of them somewhere, because damn, so many are overtly sexist, homophobic, racist, and full of insecure women with zero self-awareness that these books are definitely not sexy.
      • But then I think if I want to publish romances with confident women, who don’t take shit from overly-muscular men who are constantly growling, “You’re mine!” maybe I shouldn’t make fun of the ones who do?
        • But really, can we please stop pretending these things are sexy? It’s terrifying.

I am well aware that this is far too much for any one person to accomplish in any reasonable amount of time. And yet I’m not convinced it’s not doable, even with a newborn in my future, because I’m not giving myself a time limit. I’m doing the things that bring me joy with the hopes that I can eventually finagle myself a career out of the mix. Because I am sick of being afraid that I really can’t do it.

The fear that I’m not clever or quick enough to accomplish any of this has lingered since I was finishing up my degree. I wasn’t writing as quickly or confidently as some of my classmates, and I was frustrated with the quality of my work. I was however working 40+ hours a week and barely scraping by, getting very little sleep, not eating very well. Taking a nap was my version of taking time for myself, but it was more like crashing and burning.

No wonder I was having trouble.

I’ve learned to give myself more of a break since then (that’s where the trashy romances come in). I’ve also figured out that the fastest way to shut down my writing mojo is to think that I can’t. If I ask myself instead, “How can I write about this?” the ideas come-a-flowin.

My only trouble now is working out when to do all of the actual writing.

Minor detail. I’ll work it out.

What do you wish you had more time for? Talk to me about it in the comments.

 

 

 

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Tie Dyeing for the New Baby

I haven’t made too many things exclusively for this new baby. I still have so much leftover from Felix, that we’re not lacking for much. Still, this new little one will be a person all their own, so a few thing just for him or her seems appropriate.

This past weekend was chilly and drizzly, which is strange for Kansas in July, and I got a Tulip tie dye kit on sale at Michael’s, so I enlisted my 10 year-old’s help in tie dyeing a few things for the new baby. Not only did we get to spend some quality time together, it helped get him invested a little bit in the prep for the new baby. He’s not exactly enthused about having another new sibling at the moment, but this was fun for both of us.

Tie Dyed Osnaburg for the Ring Sling
Tie Dyed Osnaburg for the Ring Sling

We started with three yards of osnaburg done in the classic spiral technique. It came out perfect! I’ll be making another ring sling out of this as soon as my rings come in.

When I was going through our baby clothes a couple of weeks ago, I found more than 10 plain white onesies. While I’m all for the practicality of a neutral onesie, I’m not typically known for dressing my babies practically or along gender lines, so we had a lot of fun tie dyeing some onesies in all colors.

Athrun dyed this one. It might be my favorite.
Athrun dyed this one. It might be my favorite.

This guy was created by rolling from top to bottom and using two rubber bands to divide it into three sections. Then Athrun absolutely saturated it in dye. I love it!

TieDyedOnesie2
This one reminds me of turtles

We dyed everything dry, and this guy was the only one that kind of repelled the dye. It’s a Disney brand organic cotton onesie, and I don’t think Felix ever wore it, so there’s the chance that it had never been washed. I’m not entirely sure, but I love how the dye came out anyway. This was accordian folded then sectioned into four, dyed alternately with lime and kelly greens.

TieDyedOnesie4
I love the color bleeds on this one.

As a contrast the the Disney onsie, this Gerber one was dyed using the same technique (just a different orientation) and really soaked up the dye!

It's a sunburst! Complete with sunspots!
It’s a sunburst! Complete with sunspots!

We used the bullseyes technique on this one, and the colors are so much fun.

The clean up onesie
The clean up onesie

Included in the kit was a sheet of plastic to protect your work surface, which worked great, but we were left a bunch of dye drips all over the plastic when we were done. (The instructions say to cover the plastic with paper towels to soak up drips, but we don’t use paper towels, so we improvised.) I used one last onesie to soak up the dye. Way better than paper towels. Baby will look like they helped dye their own wardrobe.

 

And just for fun, when I went to edit photos for this post, I had a large amount that accidentally looked like this:

wrap fabric plus belly and feet
I can only see my feet because the baby has started to drop

At 35 weeks, the belly is getting in the way of everything.

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Decluttering: Studio Progress

Through this whole decluttering process, my beautiful studio became a dumping ground for all things that fell into the “art supplies” category. In my house, that’s a large category: candle-making supplies, misc. soap stuff, yarn, looms, wool, markers, fabric, paint. Anything that didn’t go in the kid’s art supplies got tossed in my studio to be sorted all at the same time.

Getting through it all was a huge job. It has taken multiple passes through my little 8 x 15 sun room, but over the last few days, I have made major progress.

Here’s the Before:

The other side of my studio, filled with badly stacked boxes, leaving just enough room for my bike and indoor trainer.
The other side of my studio, filled with badly stacked boxes, leaving just enough room for my bike and indoor trainer.

One whole side of the room was covered in boxes and the bike trainer was set up in here, taking up the rest of the floor space. I couldn’t get to my sewing table because of the bike, and my desk got so covered up in stuff that didn’t belong anywhere else, that there was no using that either.

Here’s what it looks like now:

From the doorway, a place to spin
From the doorway, a place to spin (and mint from the garden tied to the ceiling fan to dry)

How I Cut My Art Supplies in Half

  • Paired down my yarn so it would fit into my large set of rubbermaid drawers and put that in the closet. This still leaves me with TONS of yarn. I’m a little afraid I’ll never knit it all.
  • Paired down knitting needles, sewing notions, weaving supplies and shipping materials so that they fit in one of the smaller set of rubbermaid drawers. That fit in the closet also.
  • Also in the closet are my Ashford SampleIt! loom and my homemade Inkle loom, my Foldio.
  • Sorted through all of my WIPs and frogged the ones I was never going to complete and rewound the yarn
  • Organized my spinning fiber and accessories into two baskets. If I can see it, I am more likely to spin it.
  • There is a third set of small rubbermaid drawers in the corner where the iron is living. Inside are candle making supplies and a few misc. packaging and shipping supplies like raffia and tissue paper that didn’t really fit anywhere else.
  • Threw out any paints, ink, or markers that were old and dried out.

Getting rid of any art supplies is an emotional journey. To admit that I was never going to use some old, crusty fabric paint again was a hard decision. And trying to part with spinning fiber? Gut-wrenching. But in the end, I only kept the things I really loved and actually saw myself using in the near future.

 

The Sewing and Art Table
The Sewing and Art Table

I contemplated putting the sewing machine away and making this into a soaping table, but I came to the conclusion that this room is too small to house everything, though that would be fun to do someday! There are a few projects that could contribute to my soap business where I could take advantage of the sewing machine and the printing supplies. Little draw string bags with my logo on them maybe?

The desk
The desk

I’m still using my old Luke’s Diner table as my desk. I love the clean white work space. It’s perfect for spreading out with notebooks and devices, and when I keep it clean, it’s easy to clear off and use as a daytime photo backdrop. In fact, the green bowl in the lower right hand corner of the has a pile of stuff waiting for me to photograph.

Not pictured is a wire wrack next to the desk stuffed with notebooks and business guides and my file folders. I’d like to get a bookshelf for that eventually, but right now we’re working with what we’ve got.

I’m so excited to have this room in working order again. It’s lined on three side with windows, and has beautiful natural light. I hope to spend plenty of time in here over the next few months as I get my soap business off the ground and continue writing.

My next project for this room is decorate it. I found a photographer on etsy, and I’d love to cover my walls with her work.

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Avoiding a Pinterest Pregnancy

I love pinterest. It’s my go to website when I’m searching for new recipes, new workouts, business tips, or just want to look at something pretty for a little while. Pinterest is the best way I’ve found to find new blogs to follow and knitting patterns I would have missed on ravelry. Lately though, my pinterest feed has turned into a really negative place to be.

It began when I started my August Baby board. When I learned I was pregnant with this new little one, I was more active than I ever had been. I was walking, doing yoga, and had just started karate lessons. I was having a blast and wanted to continue that activity safely into my pregnancy. I did drop the karate, but in the interest of continuing my fun, I pinned a couple things about working out safely while pregnant, and in the postpartum period.

More pregnancy-related pins showed up on my feed, and I clicked on a few of them, usually something about morning sickness or ways to help reduce ankle swelling. They were benign enough at first, but then the tone began to change. I was getting lists of ten-must do’s during the third trimester, what I have to pack in my hospital bag, and worst of all, pin after pin after pin showing full-term pregnant bellies as a before picture next to a sculpted-ab after photo. Next to those were pins about how to avoid ugly parts of pregnancy, like gaining weight anywhere but in your belly. Next to those, how to avoid stretch marks.

The theme was becoming pretty clear. Pinterest was telling me that the way my body looked was the most important part of my pregnancy. Oh, there were still the “Do this and you’ll have an easy natural labor” pins mixed in there with a couple actually helpful breastfeeding pins, but for the most part, my pinterest feed mostly cares about how skinny I’ve stayed this pregnancy.

Guess what? I haven’t.

Since I didn’t start out skinny, I’m not all that bothered. Do I still exercise? Yes. Do I do work out to be skinny? No. I do it to be strong. To keep up with my kids. To not have to ask for help when I want in the peanut butter or the sauerkraut. (No, I don’t eat them together.) I exercise so I sleep better, so that my back and hips don’t hurt like hell when I have to sit at my desk all day. I exercise because I like competing with myself on my step-count each day, just for the sheer sport of it.

In fact, this whole working out thing is pretty darn selfish of me.

But that’s just it. I do it for me.

I have enough to worry about what with growing a human and preparing my family for his or her arrival to be constantly concerned with how gross other people think my body is, pregnant or not.

34 Weeks
34 Weeks

And honestly, I’m feeling pretty darn cute.

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Refreshing Peppermint Sugar Scrub

My giant mint plant makes my tin look tiny.
My giant mint plant makes my tin look tiny.

Most of the year, I am a lavender kind of girl. I love the smooth, relaxing, floral scent, but when the weather turns hot and muggy, and I spend a lot of time outside getting dirty in the garden, at the end of the day I really only want one thing: cooling, refreshing peppermint. Peppermint soap is delicious, but after a long day of working in the sun, nothing is more luxurious than a peppermint sugar scrub.

I love sugar scrub. I use the recipe I’m sharing today on my face daily. It’s also perfect to rub into your hands and forearms if you type or knit a lot, or, you know, constantly.

My go to carrier oil for sugar scrubs is coconut. It’s easy to work with and not too heavy to use as a facial cleanser, while still being an effective moisturizer. I like to use a fine-granule sugar in my face scrubs. Regular old table sugar is just about perfect.

This recipe fills one of my 4 oz metal tins, but a good rule of thumb is to use twice as much sugar as coconut oil to fill whatever container you think is pretty or practical. A container with a lid is best to keep water out of your scrub, and you should always store your scrub outside your shower.

Refreshing Peppermint Sugar Scrub

1/3 C coconut oil, softened slightly but not melted
2/3 C sugar
7-10 drops peppermint essential oil

Stir together in small mixing bowl, then transfer to tin

To Use: wet skin, scrub into skin, rinse, pat dry.

Don’t want to make it? This product will be available for purchase form Tiny Dino Soapworks soon!

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Catching Up, A List

1. Being pregnant is hard.
2. I want to sleep all of the time, but constant sleep is not conducive to the doing of the stuff.
3. Like gardening

We might get some zucchini!
We might get some zucchini!

4. Those blackberries tho

blackberries2016
Our blackberry bush has gotten massive this year, and look at all those potential future berries.

5. I’ve been dropping hints here and there about starting a soap company. I am ever so slowly building an inventory, but see #1 for more info. But here’s a sneak peak.

From left to right: french vanilla soap, sandalwood soap, piney-woodsy-manly soap, earl grey soap, and lavender bath salts
From left to right: french vanilla soap, sandalwood soap, piney-woodsy-manly soap, earl grey soap, and lavender bath salts

6. I’m hoping to launch the soap company before the baby comes (in 11ish weeks!), but if not, look for it before the holidays. (And if you’re interested in my pumpkin spice soap, let me know soon, so I know how much of it to make this summer!)

7. De-cluttering ground to a halt, because we had to do all of the things in April and May. We started tackling the two last big projects this past weekend: the big kid room and my studio. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

8. I am preparing a query to send to an agent for the book I wrote last year.

9. I realize I should probably try more than one agent, but baby steps.

10. While I didn’t set out to write a romance, my first book project turned out to be one. While thinking about a second project, I thought I might try to write a romance on purpose, so I found a book on romance novel writing.

11. As I’m reading this book, a lot of the advice felt familiar, and I remembered that I have a degree in creative writing, and you know, have apparently already written a romance novel, so I’m probably doing OK. (I read the whole thing anyway.)

12. It’s not a bad book if you’re just starting out though. Plus, she uses illustrations from a bunch of different books, and some are so intriguing I now have a whole new list of books to look up.

13. I am kind of excited to plan another novel project.

14. Except, I’m not so good at the planning part.

15. I love writing by the seat of my pants, but it’s not very efficient, so I am attempting to outline my next book before I start writing. It kind of sounds like torture.

16. In between being writerly, building a new business, and you know, growing a baby, I’ve been doing a little knitting.

Action shots once there's a baby to wrap in it, I promise.
Action shots once there’s a baby to wrap in it, I promise.

17. I wanted to make this new wee one a nice, heirloom quality baby blanket that didn’t use all of my brain power. Enter the twinkle blanket.

18. It’s knit out of 100% merino, undyed, and I am in love.

What have you been up to? (And what kind of soap do you want?)

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Decluttering: Paper

Before I started going through all of my papers, I never would have claimed to be a paper hoarder. I thought I was pretty good at throwing old junk mail out a couple times a week and filing things that are important…and forgetting that a lot of time I tend to shove paper in file just to get it out of my sight. Now that I’ve been through it, I have to admit that I had a problem.

Case in point:
awful paper

Did I even know what I kept in this file? Not at all. It was just junk that had probably accumulated on my desk. I think I found one useful file in all of this. Same for my other three file boxes. I found some business receipts, some old W-2s, and other once useful documents, but mostly, I found junk. Wadded post-its, old syllabi, the orientation folder from when I worked at Target from approxiamately 5 minutes back in 2008… Readers, I found Japanese homework. I haven’t studied Japanese since 2005. I don’t even know how that got filed since I didn’t buy that folder until I started Tiny Dino Studios in 2011.

And my file folders weren’t even the worst part. Check out my craft drawer:

messy paper in messy drawers

1. The drawers are just plain messy, but I’m not organizing yet, I’m still in the decluttering stage.
2. What even is that jumble? I don’t even know.

I think things like this are a symptom of not spending enough time in my studio. I give myself just long enough to complete my project, but not enough time for clean up, so when I go in to start something new, I just shove the leftover stuff from last time out of sight. Also, I don’t have a trash can in my studio. I really should remedy that.

I don’t have any pretty pictures to show you, because even though my files boxes are functional and I know where all my important stuff is, the rest of my studio is still a disaster. The files boxes and binders are waiting patiently on my desk for their turn to find a home.

What was important in this project was gather all of the paper into one place and sorting it one piece at a time. Like the books, it was a bigger job than I expected. It took me a few hours to find and rifle through all that. In the end, I threw away four bags of what was essentially trash that I had been carrying around for years, which was extremely satisfying.

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