How Not To Blog

When you end your last post “stay tuned,” you probably don’t expect your illustrious blog host to disappear for six months.

Felix/Mommy selfie time. Also, feeling the love with my @bitchmedia B-Hive mug, because we value independent media.

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I got new glasses!

Yeah, I didn’t expect that either. I have spent the last six months in a haze of not enough sleep, baking, yoga, playing with babies, and of while plenty of writing has been happening as well, there has been a lot of I don’t have time to turn this into a blog post, lets make it an instagram instead. But I have missed this space.

This peasant loaf is my prettiest so far. Can’t wait til it cools to see how it tastes. #gfbaking #glutenfree

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Over the years, I’ve talked about doing a lot of different things with Tiny Dino Studios, and I get excited about new projects and new hobbies, and make all sorts of plans that I never quite follow through on. I start out with the best intentions for a yarn dyeing business, for helping people with their handmade business, for freelance writing, for selling soap, and then I get side tracked by whatever story I’m working on and all my good intentions go straight out the window.

You’d think it wouldn’t take me years and years to realize I should put all of my energy into my writing already and be done with it, but it did.

For whatever reason, I felt like writing wasn’t enough to focus on. Those other things had the potential to bring me money sooner, even though I cared more about the writing.

I’ve spent the last few months coming to terms with owning that I want to just be a writer.

And doesn’t that make it sound simpler than it really is? There is no “just” about it.

I currently have one novel in time out while I decide if it’s done or not, another I have been working on for a year, and a third that’s waiting in the wings. Not to mention all of the scary parts of writing like query letters and synopses, and whether self-publishing a little isn’t a bad idea.

Enjoying being outside before it gets too hot. ??? Love watching the plants grow. ????????????????

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On top of that, I miss the good old days when blogs were a way to genuinely connect with readers instead of another avenue to facilitate the means of production.

I don’t want to sell you stuff.

I want to talk about my writing and complain about this elimination diet I’m getting ready to start. (I’m totally Fat Tuesdaying it up this weekend, because come Monday, I have to give up all of my favorite things: coffee! chocolate! chickpeas! tomatoes!)

Mostly, I want to share fun stuff, like this pinterest board I made for my current writing project:

I know some authors have boards and boards and boards for each of their stories. This is the first time I’ve done it, and it was fun trying to find people and places that match what I see in my head when I write.

Now, anyone want to beta read?

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New Adventures

I have some pretty exciting news.

I am quitting my job in three weeks.

I have been working as a specialty retail buyer for 4 1/2 years now, and it has been a blast, but it is time for something new. In fact, I have already started another job. I’m working at one of my favorite local restaurants in the evenings, which is where I’ve been instead of writing here. I’m having a blast, but the best part of all this change is that I’m going to be able to stay home with my kiddos during the day!

I have been trying to maneuver into this position for the last two years, and I am so stoked it is finally working out.

I am full of plans, both for the kids and myself and the writing projects and the soap business. It has yet to be seen how all of this will fit together, and I’m sure it will take us most of January to fall into a routine, but I am planning to make the most it.

Starting in January, I can also poor my full energy into Tiny Dino Soapworks, which I have been operating a little bit under the radar as I sort out all the moving parts.

Here’s a peek at my favorite new soap, Mocha Morning. It’s made with PT’s coffee and smells like coffee and chocolate cake. It’s delicious!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be gearing up to launch the soapworks full-blast with a wholesale linesheet and a bevy of new products. If you know anyone who loves handmade soap and body products, send ’em my way!

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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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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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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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Free Pattern: Chunky Baby Mittens with No Thumb

My gift to you on this, the day after Thanksgiving, the first Day of the Christmas season, a new free pattern!
chunkythumblessinfantmittens

It’s that time of year when I start frantically making sure my family has warm things to cover their heads, hands, and feet, because the weather has decided it’s pretty much winter. Since I have a wee little one this year, I got to make the simplest, quickest pair of mittens there is. Chunky mittens with no thumbs! Just a cuff, and a hand! And on size 10 needles, these little suckers are done in no time. If you have a baby in your circle, these are a super quick, fun little gifts to help keep teeny tiny fingers warm this winter.

mittensforscale With lego rocker chic for scale. Is the axe part of her show? Who knows?

In the pattern, I say to use DPNs, but please use whichever method you are fond of. Obviously, you can see I knit my mittens using magic loop, which has been my default lately, mostly because finding one circular needles is usually easier than four DPNs in the same size.

Materials
50g Chunky Weight Yarn (Shown in some old Brachiosaurus Bulky, but Wool of the Andes Bulky would substitute perfectly.)
Gauge
4 stitches per inch in Stockinette
Needles
1 set US Size 8/5mm double pointed needles
1 set US size 10/6mm double pointed needles
Tools
Darning needle

Pattern Key
BO– bind off
CO– cast on
K– knit
P-Purl
K2tog– knit 2 stitches together (a decrease)
st(s)—stitch(es)
St st— Stockinette stitch

Pattern
CO 18 stitches onto smaller needels
Spread evenly over three DPNs. Join to work in the round
Cuff:
K1 P1 for two inches or until cuff reaches desired length
Hand:
Switch to larger needles.
At the beginning of the next round, switch to ST stitch, adding two sts in the first round for a total of 20 sts.

Knit every round for 3 inches.

Decreases:
Row 1:K3, K2tog repeat around
Row 2: K around
Row 3: K2, k2tog repeat around
Row 4: K1, K2tog repeat around
Row 5: K2tog, repeat around
Pull yarn through sts, and weave in securely.
Weave in all ends.
Knit Two.
Block

chunkybabymittenswithnothumb

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Some Woolly Things

It’s November 1st. We had our first freeze last night. The air is crisp, and we’ve started breaking out the woollens.

Socks Hanging to Dry in the Bathroom
Socks Hanging to Dry in the Bathroom

Just in time, I finished Brock’s sweater last night (don’t I know how to party on Halloween), and it’s upstairs taking a bath right now. I only have one sleeve left to knit on Felix’s sweater, and then I am taking a break from sweaters. Especially this sweater. I have been knitting Flax, almost exclusively, since August. I am going to knit socks and scarves and mittens and hats until the weather warms up again, I think.

…or maybe not.

Things around our house have changed quit a bit in the last couple of months. Felix has aged out of my work’s program that allows babies to tag along with mama’s (can you believe he is 6 months old already?), so my husband and I are working alternate schedules so we don’t have to send (or pay for) Felix to daycare. While I think this is the best move for our family, it is taking some getting used to. It doesn’t help that I have been throwing myself into my day job hardcore and coming home exhausted physically and mentally exhausted, and then with nighttime baby wake ups, I tend to stare at netflix or pinterest a lot these days rather than produce anything. There have been weeks lately when 3 or 4 nights out when I have been too tired to knit–and that is tired indeed.

I am not folding, by any means, but I stepping back from fiber production a little bit for awhile. It’s just all too much right now–as evidenced by the complete lack of posts around here.

The good news is, I’m not actually going anywhere, just giving myself permission to slow down. Right down my ideas, get to them when I have time, and just enjoy my knitting and spinning for pleasure instead of for production right now.

I’ll still blog about what I’m doing. For instance, at the show I was at in October, I demonstrated how to solar dye in mason jars.

wool rainbow
I have two sets of these little half ounce pieces that I’ve dyed. I’m planning to spin them up in rainbow order and chain ply them. The only thing left to decide if I want to do one skein or two skeins.

It’s also November, which means Nanowrimo! I started my novel this morning and met my word count. So far so good.

How’s your November looking?

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Oh, Heeeey There

There’s nothing like a missing cat to make you take a month-long break from blogging, but that’s what happened. No worries, she’s home safe, but what was supposed to be a long, relaxing Labor Day weekend turned into a stressful fret-fest when the cat disappeared on the first day and didn’t return for six days. When she was in the yard one morning when we were leaving for work, she mewed and scowled at us very loudly. How dare we take so long to find her. Where had we been?

Anyway, that lovely time, on top of preparing for knitting classes, fiber festivals and general life are my excuses, and I dare you to challenge them.

First things first: the fiber festivals! This year I am only planning two shows: the Holton Fall Festival on October 11th. I will be part of the Sheep to Shawl demonstration, talking about solar dyeing in mason jars, and of course selling my wares.

In November I will be at Twisted!, which is so much fun to do. Twisted is Nov. 7th and 8th, and we will be on the first Friday art walk.

Now, here’s what I’ve been up to this last month in instagrams.

All-in-all, it was a pretty good month. What have you all been up to without me?

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New Class! Knitting a Top-Down Raglan Sweater

Knitting a Top-Down Raglan Sweater
$60
September 15, 22, 29 Oct 6, 13, 20 (Monday nights)
6:30-8:30 pm
Memorial Hall at Potwin Presbyterian Church
Maximum of 5 students

We will be knitting Flax by TinCanKnits, which is a simple top-down raglan sweater – great for men, women, or children. We will talk about gauge, how fabric behaves, seamless sweater construction, and fit. I will provide printed materials with information on how to knit a top-down raglan that fits. Techniques covered include: knitting a flat gauge swatch “in the round”, raglan shaping, increasing, decreasing, knitting in the round on circular needles, magic loop, and double pointed needles (optional.)

Materials:
Flax is a free downloadable pattern, but student must download from the following link:
ravelry.com/patterns/library/flax
Enough worsted weight yarn to knit a sweater in your chosen size
1 Set size 8 32″ circular needles (or size to match gauge)
1 set size 7 32″ ciruclar needles (or size to match gauge)
tape measure
scissors
waste yarn
darning needle
4-8 stitch markers
Optional:
double pointed needles for knitting sleeves
pen
highlighter

email me at tinydinostudios at gmail dot com to sign up!

See you there!

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