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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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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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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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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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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Why I Love Handmade Soap

lavender cocoa butter soap on wheat plate

About mid-spring, I got stuck on the idea that I wanted to make my own soap. Now, soap and I have not had a particularly happy history. It’s not that I have trouble with lye or fragrance (though I do try to avoid frangrance with phthatlates), it is simply that I have dry skin, and sometimes, using commercial soap was akin to dousing myself with itching powder–and then combine that with our hard water, look out.

I always had better luck with handmade soap. I tried Soap for Goodness Sake and absolutely fell in love with Nuture Botaincals and Bazil Essentials, which is a local-to-me company that I cannot recommend enough if you are in the market for vegan body products. I could lather up with these soaps and get out of the shower and not feel like my skin was going to snap Cassandra from Dr. Who style.

lavender cocoa butter soap bars

So what’s the big difference? Most commercial soap are made with Sodium Laueth Sulfate which is a detergent and skin irritant. Mixing it with oils make it resemble soap, but it more strips grease than cleans, hence the getting out of the shower and diving straight into a bucket of lotion. With traditional soap, yes, made with lye, the soap gently loosens dirt and debris off your skin as it lathers, but the oils in the bar also moisturize your skin. Since I switched to completely handmade bath products, I haven’t needed lotion at all. (Obligatory disclaimer: This is all totally my experience from n=1 experimentation with soaps. These statements are not to be taken as medical advice.)

lavender cocoa butter soap

I spent most of the month of June reading up on oils and their different properties–which ones make a super sudsy moisturizing bar, and which ones make a nice hard bar that one dissolve immediately in the shower. I discovered that my favorite oil is probably cocoa butter. It’s rich, creamy, supremely moisturizing, and makes the kitchen smell like fresh chocolate while you’re working with it.

lavender cocoa butter shave and shampoo bar

The chocolate smell, unfortunately, does not last through the soapmaking process, but the properties of the butter do. The lavender soap I’ve been sharing photos of has cocoa butter, castor oil, and just a little bit kaolin clay, which gives it such a creamy, rich lather that is perfect for shampooing or shaving. Plus, it’s really pretty.

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