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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Decluttering: Books

Books are the number one hardest thing for me to get rid of. I thought it would be yarn or fiber arts related goods, but selling my drum carder taught me that I’m just fine without it. Books though. For more than half my life books have been my identity–I was a reader, a writer– it was mandataory that I have a large book collection.

Our bookshelves were messy
Our bookshelves were messy

Because of that, it took me a few weeks after purging my clothes to make it over to my bookshelves. That’s right, shelves. I have one in the bedroom, two in the living room, and my husband has three in his office. (I didn’t touch his books, and he flat out refused to get rid of them on his own. He even rescued a few volumes from my discard pile.)

Yes, that is a doorknob and a half-knit sock you see.
And the tall one had become a place to keep things out of toddler’s reach.

I had two rules. in discarding.
1. I had to really love the book, and want to reread it and / or use it in future in order to keep it.
2. If I loved it, but had the eBook, I had to get rid of the paper copy.

For whatever reason, I didn't think this would be such a huge job when I started...
All of my books sorted into piles

Out of about 300 books, I only ended up keeping 100, most of which fit on the one bookshelf in the bedroom. The rest are all art/business related books, so they will live in the studio, and even then, there are only about a dozen. Most of the books I am gettind rid of are old books I either couldn’t or didn’t want to sell back to the college bookstore. For some reason, when I was in college, I wanted to keep all of my English-major related books.

He's been very helpful through this whole clutter culling process, so much so that I've accidentally thrown away some important thing Felix decided we didn't need anymore.
Felix is helping sort books.

I haven’t cracked a single one of them in the five years since I graduated. Obviously, I’m over it.

Not surprisingly, the books I kept were by the authors I love the most, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas Hardy, The Brontes, etc. The rest are about gardening and farming–all of the things that make me dream and give me joy.

Secret, most of the discards are still in boxes on my back porch as I slowly find places to donate them.
The Final Sort. The keepers in the front, the discards in the back

One surprise was that I kept only two knitting books. I am discarding some gorgeous pattern books (interested in snatching one up? Stay tuned, I’ll have them up for grabs in a few days), because I almost always knit from indie patterns on ravelry. Downloading patterns takes up so much less space.

Now I have all of my books in one place, organized by author and subject, and easy to find.

There are roughly 60 books here. Most of the young adult books and the Harry Potter books went to live in the kids' room.
The end product

I expected to me be sad to see so many volumes go, but I feel lighter for having pared down my collection to only my favorite books. And, next time we move, we’ll have 200 fewer books to haul.

What are the books you can’t live without?

PS, You might have noticed that I didn’t blog about purging my closet. It’s always been easy for me to get rid of clothes, I have little emotional attachment to most garments, and generally only buy what I need to get by for awhile. I would like to be more intentional about what I bring into my collection in the future, but being in the middle of a pregnancy, clothes only cross my mind when I complain about how all my maternity pants are still too big, and all of my regular pants are way too small.

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Mission: Tidy & Organize

When we moved into our house a little over two ears ago, we thought we were going to have to much open space. We were moving from a 900 sq ft apartment to a 1900 sq ft house. There was no way our stuff would fill it up, and I was worried about the house feeling empty.

dinning room before
our dining room the first morning we had the keys

We were so dead wrong.

Turns out, we had our apartment so jam packed that we should not have worried.

dinningroom after
our dining room on our first weekend in the house

One mistake I made when moving in was to not take any time off work to get the house unpacked and put away. I wanted to, but I was pregnant. Any days I took off would count against my paid maternity leave, so I hoarded those days. That means I put our stuff away here and there, not really finding a permanent spot for anything, because I was cutting in to my usual clean up and maintenance time, but we were making it work.

new studio wide
my studio the first month we lived here

Fast forward two years, a few holidays, and one toddler later, and our place is a never ending mess. The clutter has taken over. Between toys, coats, bags, books, hobbies, etc, I feel like I will never get the place under control. I never feel like my house is clean, because I have to organize and tidy before I can clean.

I don’t mind cleaning. I loathe tidying. I like everything to have a place, or to get the hell out of my way. I have better things to do than constantly be spit shining my home. I would like to live, thank you very much.

Sometime a year or more ago, I found Mari KondoThe Life Changing Art of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I bought it and didn’t read it because I wanted an excuse to not put in the work. Then I kept seeing it pop on various blogs, and the little bits I saw about it reminded me why I bought it. So I cracked it open, finally. The book is all about getting rid of all the things that clutter your house and your life and finding places for all of he things that matter most.

Kondo encourages the reader to recognize when an object has fulfilled its purpose in their life, even if that purpose was to only give joy when they bought it. Then thank it for that joy, and get rid of it. I love the idea of acknowledging the emotions inanimate objects invoke in us. Emotion and potential are why I hold on to things I am never going to use, and saying it aloud is an affirmation of those feelings that lead me to hang on.

I want to purge this house of all of our clutter and find a place for everything before this baby gets here. Since we’ll be moving bedrooms around in preparation, the KonMari method feels like it makes sense for us and our house.

current state of my studio work table
current state of my studio work table

I’ve already started on the clothes, and am mentally preparing myself for the books. I probably spend more money on books than anything else. These days they are mostly eBooks, but I still collect my fair share of paper books, and they have accumulated.

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.

I’ll be sharing my progress every Monday to help keep myself accountable. Wish me luck!

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Thoughts on Paying Yourself by the Day

This video showed up on my facebook feed last week, and I shared it on the TDS Facebook page, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.

How have I never heard this before? Do you know how long I’ve been doing this? Maybe if I’d gone to art school?

I love how simple he makes pricing work for sale. It’s got me rethinking the prices I’d been playing with for the upcoming Tiny Dino Soapworks. Especially since I’ve already been working on how I would batch my oils for soaps and body butters, etc. to save time spent measuring oil for each new product.

Let’s play with some theoretical numbers for a moment, shall we?

If I wanted to figure out how much to charge for a bar of soap, the first thing I do is figure my cost of materials. Say a 10-bar batch costs $15 to make, including packaging. That means cost of materials on each bar is $1.50. If I were paying myself by the day, and could theoretically make 30, 10-bar batches of soap in a 10 hour day, that means I could make 300 bars in a day. That means I would pay myself .$60 per bar, raising total price of the bar to $2.10.

This is far too low. Selling your soap for that little will run you out of business, especially if you’re making closer to 3 batches of soap a day. (If you’re at a point where you’re making all 300 bars, I hope you’ve scaled up from a 10-inch mold!)

If I were to figure the price hourly, still paying myself $50/hour, I still get the cost of $2.10/bar. However, if I figure the pricing model I proposed in Why You Need Wholesale Pricing First, this number would be my starting point, and not my end point. My wholesale price per bar would be (rounding up) $4.25, the retail price $8.50.

Those are numbers I am far more comfortable with for recouping expenses.

If I were still selling handspun yarn, I would never be able to sell it using this method. I could probably spin one, maybe two skeins of yarn in one day, unless I was doing super chunky stuff. That means 1 skein would cost roughly $275. Usually, I was lucky if I could sell the yarn I spun for twice the price of materials at around $50.

For soaping and spinning, I’m not sure this model works, even though I consider those artisan crafts. However, for woodworking, for sewing, I could see how it could work very well.

What do you think? Which pricing model works best for your handmade business?

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Coffee Melt and Pour Soap

coffee soap

While I usually prefer cold process soap, I played around with some melt and pour soap I had laying around this weekend. I cleaned up from breakfast on Sunday morning then chopped it up, melted it down, poured a bit of leftover coffee in it (from the pot, not my cup) and sprinkled the top with grounds for some good ol’ exfoliation. I love how most of the grounds stayed on the surface, but a few floated to the bottom of the mold. Bonus, no added fragrance to this soap, just the caffeinated goodness of the coffee.

The thing about melt and pour soap is that it is deceptively easy. Someone else has already mixed the lye solutions with the oils, so I get to skip the part where I have to clean my kitchen, take it apart, cover it with newspaper, done a mask, goggles, and gloves, and then clean everything again once I’m done. With melt and pour, I put parchment over my cutting board, chop, melt, grab whatever essential oil or additive and be done. The drawback, I can’t control what oils are used in the soap or in what percentages. I have yet to find a melt and pour base that doesn’t use palm oil, which isn’t my favorite.

If you’re interested, I used about a pound of Brambleberry’s LCP White Melt and Pour Base and about 2 oz. of coffee. I got three 4 oz. bars like pictured and three 2 oz. bars from a different mold. Any white melt and pour base should yield similar results, but I particularly like the LCP, which stands for “Like Cold Process”, so it’s mostly lacking that yucky sticky feeling so many melt and pour soaps have.

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31 Things for 31

1. Today is my 31st birthday.
2. Normally I write a nice long New Year-sie type post, but my car almost blew up, and one of the things I was going to write about was the need to push toward goals, but also knowing when you need a rest. For me that day is today.
3. OK, so saying my car almost blew up might be a bit of an exaggeration.
4. It was smoking and squealing and being all sorts of scary.
5. Plus, I was parked in the garage beneath the Kansas State Capitol. I was not going to be the woman who exploded the capitol because her ancient-ass Honda decided to throw flames as a birthday present.
6. I might slightly afraid of dying in a spontaneous car fire.
7. Does anyone else realize how scary combustion engines really are?
8. I was hoping to buy a new car this year anyway.
9. But I was also hoping to use my tax return to do it, and that’s at least another month away.
10. Readers, this car is 18 years old. It is time to die, but it also needs to last another month without costing a fortune to fix.
11. There’s another reason we need a new car.
12. The Honda barely fits Felix’s car seat, and sometime in August, it looks like we’ll be adding another. If we try to fit two car seats in the back, Brock and I will be riding with our knee to our throats, and where will we put Athrun? The trunk?
13. Yup, you read that right, I have now made two cavalier jokes about illegal activities that would likely get me arrested were I serious.
14. Oh, and if you’re wondering about that second car seat, we’ll need it because I am pregnant. Again.
15. The reason I haven’t kept to my update schedule is because morning sickness hit me like a ton of bricks in December.
16. It was so bad, and I was so sick that we thought for awhile I might have another miscarriage.
17. After a week of tests and and a couple of ultrasounds, everything is looking normal.
18. That pregnancy limbo did not do good things for my psyche. In addition to being afraid of exploding cars, I’m also pretty attached to not bleeding to death.
19. And…I kind of actually wanted this pregnancy to stick.
20. Even though I hate being pregnant.
21. Even though Felix got so angry about changing out of his pajamas and into clothes this morning that he threw the hamper into the door.
22. It was empty, but still, he’s not even two!
23. He totally gets that temper from me. I throw shit when I’m angry too.
24. The sickness has evened out now and I’m feeling all right now. Not spectacular, but I am no longer angry at the world for my misery.
25. I have a lot of other things I’d like to do while I’m 31 besides have a baby and buy a car.
26. I’d like to find an agent for the novel I wrote last year.
27. I’d like to revise the story I wrote in November.
28. I’d like to KonMari the heck out of my house.
29. I’d like to finally get the soap company I’ve been planning in my head for the last two years off the ground.
30. The list could go on, but those are the major points.
31. Now I’m gonna go eat some of that carrot cake I’ve been enjoying for two days already.

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Selling Without Fear: Why You Need Wholesale Pricing First

wholesalepricingpin

Now that you are thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur and have started on your branding journey, you have to be ready to sell, right? What’s left? You’re never going to make any money if you don’t sell, right?

Correct. If you never start selling, you won’t make any money–but you know what else makes you no money? Setting your prices to low.

I know you’ve heard that your prices are probably too low before, and there is a reason for that. A lot of new entrepreneurs want to sell their work for the lowest price possible because they are afraid no one will buy it otherwise–it is a chronic problem. It is also a trap, one that I am begging you to avoid.

Prices are hard. How do you even start to quantify your hard work? Is the love that you put into your pieces worth a number? Does it matter if you would keep making those scarves, mugs, prints, earrings, lip balms, etc. even if you weren’t selling them? Yes. It matters.

If you want to continue your business long term, you have to make enough money to keep it going.

Chances are, you probably want to make enough money to quit your day job. To do that, the prices on the items you sell have to accurately reflect not just the cost of their production, but also cover your mortgage. And if you don’t want to eat ramen for every meal, it’s good to be realistic up front about how much you need to make and how much you can reasonable expect to charge for your product.

How to Figure Your Pricing:
Step 1: Figure the cost of goods sold. You need to know how much everything costs: your supplies, shipping and packaging, branding materials, website, studio space, advertising. This also includes your hourly rate, and feel free to give yourself a raise. You are working your ass off to get this business off the ground.

Add the cost of the supplies that goes into each product plus the amount of time you spent on each product plus the costs of packaging and promotion. This gives you the cost of goods sold. (The investment you have put into each individual product.)

Step 2: Do your research. How much are other makers selling similar products for? Take a look at etsy and local shops that sell items similar to what you make. What are their price points? Keep in mind that some markets vary a lot on the sort of product they can sell. A gift shop at an art museum is going to have much higher price points than a corner grocery store, which is going to be different from an artist’s collective or boutique. Where does your product fit best? If you’ve done your branding homework, this should be an easy question to answer.

Step 3: Take your cost of goods sold and multiply it by two. Then multiply it by two again. The first number is your wholesale price. The second is your retail price. Compare these numbers to your market research. If the number is too high, work to get your costs down. Look for new suppliers, make more efficient use of your time, but do not decide to pay yourself less. That hourly rate is non-negotiable.

The other thing that’s non-negotiable, is that step where you figured your wholesale pricing.

I know it’s tempting to make that wholesale price your retail price. You will probably sell twice as many $1.50 lips balms as you will $3.00 lip balms, so it’s no big deal, right? Sure, maybe you will, but then you’ll have come up with containers and oils and packaging for twice as many products on half the money. If you’re selling your lip balms at shows and online one tube at a time, $1.50 isn’t a very big return, even if you’re selling ten a day. That’s $11.50 per day vs. $30.00 per day. (See how that number more than doubled there?)

The other major thing to keep in mind is that while most artist-entrepreneurs start out at shows and online, getting into brick and mortar stores can become your bread and butter. Brick and mortar stores like to place large orders all at once. That’s good for you, because instead of getting your money in $3.00 at a time, you can sell a shop 50 tubes of lip balm at a time and you get $75.00 all at once. That’s money that it normally would have taken you three to four days to make that you just made in one.

The lump sum is the first reason you need wholesale pricing. Another is that if you don’t offer discounted pricing on your work to stores that are buying from you in bulk, they will flat out not buy from you again. If you charge a shop the same $3.00 you retail lip balm for, that means the shop has to sell it for $5.00 to $6.00 to recoup their investment. That’s getting to the high end of the lip balm spectrum and could be difficult to sell. On top of that, if customers find out that they can undercut the store by going directly to you, you might get the business of a few people buying from you one time, but you’ll lose multiple large orders from that store because they can’t sell your product. You want those consistent lump sums.

The most important reason of all that you need to know your wholesale pricing before start selling is because knowing your wholesale price gives you power. Whether you’re trying to sell at a show, working with a buyer or negotiating with a collaborator, you know the bare minimum amount that you can accept for your product, and you can even set a minimum amount that a person needs to order to get that price. Setting your terms up front makes you look good and engenders trust. When your customers trust you, they are a lot more willing to give you their money so you can pay your mortgage. And that is always a good thing.

Next week we’re talking the glory that is a line sheet. Hold onto your hats, ladies and gentlemen, it’s going to be a blast.

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Hurray, it’s December!

And I made it through another year of Nanowrimo. I hit 50,000 words the day before Thanksgiving, and haven’t touched the story since…It still needs an ending, and I’m not sure I’ll ever do anything with this one, but it was a needed break from the novel I’ve been working on for a year, and it feels fantastic to hit that 50K mark.

For December, I have a few other goals in mind. First and foremost, I’d like to make up for some of that blogging time I missed in November. I missed you guys. I hope your Novembers rocked. (I know many of you are waiting for the latest installment of the Selling Wihtout Fear series. Look for that next week.)

My other goal for this month is to get some Christmas crafting done. I’ve been experimenting with candles lately–which could easily become a new obsession. Little tins like the ones in the photo below are so fun and easy to make.

Christmas gift crafting in progress.

A photo posted by Marla (@tinydinostudios) on

And of course, I’ve been making a little Christmas soap. I love how pretty the rose petals are.

Grapefruit Rose soap out of the mold.

A photo posted by Marla (@tinydinostudios) on

Something about winter makes me want to experiment with balms and body butters and bath salts. It’s all I can think about lately, but that could just be that my brain needs a wee break from fiction writing.

What are your plans for December?

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