Since I spend a lot of time with my soaps, I think of them as my friends. I give them different personalities and I thought you may like to see them the way I do. Meet Cheyenne, my Goat Milk soap.
She’s creamy pure with skin soft as Cashmere, but she’s not the pampered kind who’s all dressed up with nowhere to go.
No. She’s Cheyenne, the one who’s already at work in the barn before the sun peeks over the rolling hills in the distance. Her dusty brown boots are damp with caked-on mud as she leads the herd through the pre-dawn milking ritual. Greeting each one by name with her gentle coaxing, they know and trust her as they line up in order and then head back to their cozy grass-lined pens once their work is done.
She wipes her hands on her soft, worn, faded Carhartts and squints into the bright orange sunlight as it fills the sky. Then this farm girl climbs up on the old green Deere to chug her way back to the big house for a hearty breakfast, but not before raiding the chicken coop of a couple of dozen newly laid eggs and a bucket for collecting some wild berries on the way. “I’ll have to put some of these up soon,” she promises herself, and pops a few into her mouth just to be sure they taste ready for jam.
Jumping from the tractor, Cheyenne heads to the back porch screen door, smelling Ma’s coffee percolating, but stops to pick some tall ragweed by the fence as Lacey, her chestnut mare, makes her way over, snorting playfully, to greet her mistress. Cheyenne coos softly to her frisky friend and offers a nibble of the tall grass. “I’ll be back to take you for a nice long gallop through the back field a little later,” she whispers, looking forward to a good run once her chores are done. But first, some fried eggs, homemade sausage, fresh-picked wild berries with a splash of fresh cream and a nice steaming mug of hot coffee. The screen door squeaks as she heads into the kitchen and the door bangs shut behind her. A long day awaits, promising the reward of a steamy shower later that evening with a frothy lather of goat milk soap.
Mama always says, “You may be tough enough to chop wood and toss ten bales of hay, but when you go out, you show that you’re a lady.” And you know, Mama knows best.
What do a blending class, determination and a nor’easter have in common? I’m so glad you asked.
Last Friday Long Island was hit with another nor’easter. Sleet was coming in almost horizontally, and the wind was so strong I was having a hard time walking to the train station. I was scheduled to teach an essential oil blending class for bath and body products in NYC. I had 7 students that I didn’t want to disappoint. Marla from Back Porch Soap had set the class up for me, and I didn’t want to disappoint her either.
The problem was, the Long Island Rail Road trains were delayed. And when there is a nor’easter and the trains are already delayed, I knew there was a chance I’d be stuck in the city. So along with my bag of materials for class, I packed my toothbrush, tooth paste and a pair of sweat pants. That was all I had room for.
My train was 30 minutes late, and took an extra 30 minutes to get in, so my one hour trip took two. I finally made it to the Little Shop of Crafts where the class was being held. You can see how happy I am to see Joy, the manager of the shop. You can also see how waterlogged I am!
Once I dried off, I set up the class, and waited for my students.
Out of seven signups, four students were able to make it in.
They each made 2 signature scents, and them used them in 2 different products, a lotion and an oil.
I like small classes. I can give more personalized attention and the students seem to bond with one another. We all smelled each others creations and followed one other on different social media platforms.
Getting home proved to be even more difficult than getting in. Most of the trains were cancelled. I was finally able to get on a train that went to a different town, and Brian was able to pick me up.
This week I’m grateful I made it into the city Friday. I was truly looking forward to teaching this blending class. I’m also grateful I didn’t need the supplies I packed “just in case” and that I made it home.
We were supposed to take this vacation last year when we both turned 60, but my dad had passed away a few months before and well, I just couldn’t. So we went this year, last week to be exact. I had my toenails painted, we flew to Tampa, and hustled ourselves on a cruise. There were some lessons learned on vacation.
The first three days I slept 12 hours straight, then cut it down to 8 hours with a nap or two. I ate more food than I thought possible. The ports were fun, and I even found a few local soap products.
Fish swam by as I had my feet in the water, I re-read my Badass book, and had time to sit on our balcony and watch the ocean pass by.
Lessons Learned on Vacation
1-Any alcohol really aggravates my acid reflux, so buh-bye margaritas!
2-I have no discipline when it comes to food choices. When given the option of eating Eggs Benedict for 7 days straight, I will. Same goes for every day dessert after lunch and countless snacks, resulting in 5 extra pounds.
3- I need to work less and play more. It’s OK to sit and do nothing too.
4- Start each morning with five minutes of meditation, prayer and gratitude, and end the night the same way.
5- Enjoy the moment, because it passes quickly.
I’m grateful we waited until this year to do this vacation. We both were able to enjoy ourselves. My sister Lisa was taking care of any Alegna Soap orders that came in (thanks Lisa!), and my sister Pam stopped by to check on our house (thanks Pam!).
I’m so grateful for my two favorite guys. Sadly, my husband is not one of them, but he understands my obsession. In my family we had a whirlwind 13 months. First my daughter got married, then my son got married. They my son’s wife had a baby and four months later, so did my daughter. So many wonderful changes!
Luke is my first born grandson. I want his hair! It’s dark and curly and absolutely gorgeous.
Brian is my second grandson. I can already tell he has his dad’s sense of humor.
They both have million dollar smiles! Luke loves Thomas the Train and Brian loves his dogs. We were able to all be together this past Thanksgiving, and the boys sort of paralleled played. I really am looking forward to watching them really interact with each other. I’m guessing that will be in another year or so.
I was lucky to get Luke on my lap to eat some birthday cake at his second birthday. He can’t say Gigi yet, but if you ask him where Gigi’s nose is, he points to mine.
Look at how much Brian love his Poppy! Brian lives about 5 hours away and we try to go down to see him once a month. I’m also grateful for FaceTime because we can see him and he can see us on a regular basis.
I even got Luke to pose with one of my Limited Edition soaps when he was a baby!
Family is important and these two guys have quickly become the most important members. They make my mom smile and melt my heart. They bring noise and laughter into our house. I need to feel their tiny hugs and messy kisses. I’m so grateful to be a grandmother.
Adam Savage says that humans do two things that make up unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once. When I saw these signs at one of the elementary schools I work in, I immediately thought of my soap maker friends and what we have in common. So what are makers?
Makers are Problem Solvers
A maker needs to be a good problem solver, which I think takes a combination of logic and intuition. We need to define the problem, think of some solutions, evaluate and choose one to implement. If the chosen solution doesn’t work, we go back at the beginning and start again. I think of the many batches of soap I reformulated to get my recipe.
Makers are Collaborators
A maker needs to build trust and relationships to be a collaborator. I try hard to become friends with other soap makers. I want all of us to succeed. I like having friends I can bounce ideas off of and friends I can work with. I don’t see other soap makers as competition.
Makers are Communicators
Makers need to be good listeners, ask questions and get clarification when needed. S/he needs to read body language and be open to new thoughts and ideas. This is especially true when you run a maker business. You need to be able to communicate your story.
Makers are Innovators
S/he needs to see things where others don’t, be a risk taker, and not be afraid to fail. Personally, I think the most important thing here is not being afraid to fail. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Makers are Thinkers
A maker needs to get information and figure things out. S/he should be observant, independent, and curious and be able to use what is discovered to reach a conclusion.
Makers are Committed Individuals
A committed individual is dependable, focused, and passionate about what they do. S/he is self motivated and determined. Makers need to truly love what they do, and I truly love soap making. I love the chemistry behind it, and the finished product. I love the creative process of planing the design, and perfecting the scent. Even washing soap dishes is fun to me.
I’m grateful for all the makers in my life. What are you grateful for this week?
There are a lot of handcrafted soap makers selling their soaps lately, and there are just as many different types of handcrafted soap. Each soap maker has her or his recipe, some have more than one they use. So the question is, how to choose a handcrafted soap? Maybe you are drawn to the color of the soap, it matches your bathroom decor, or maybe you fell in love with the soaps scent. It reminded you of a summer day at the ocean. These are perfectly good reasons to buy a handcrafted soap. But you may want to dig a little deeper if you’re buying a handcrafted soap for every day use.
Are you Vegan?
You won’t want a soap made with lard, goat milk or honey, and you probably won’t want a soap that contains palm oil. An olive oil soap might be what you’re looking for. I use palm oil in the rest of my soaps, but if you live on Long Island I can find you a soap maker locally who doesn’t use it.
Read the label. Is the soap made with moisturizing oils? Is there a butter in the recipe? I use shea butter in my soaps, but I also love cocoa butter, mango butter and other butters in soap. Wash with the soap. Are there too many or not enough bubbles to your liking? Does your skin feel comfortable after washing or are you reaching for hand cream?
Is the soap made with essential oils, fragrance oils or both? Is the bar lightly scented or strongly scented. Do you prefer unscented? There are many choices when it comes to scents.
Do you prefer a soap with color or a more natural soap? If you like colors, do you want bright ones, muted ones or a soap made from natural colorants?
There is no right answer to the question how to choose a handcrafted soap, it’s all your personal preference. I’m grateful there are so many soap makers. There is no way I could make enough soap to make every one happy. If I don’t make a soap you like I’ll send you to another soap maker who does. The Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild and Indie Business Network are 2 organizations I belong to where you can locate a soap maker in your area. I’ve also learned so much from other soap makers, how they work and how they run their businesses. They have helped me become a better soap maker, business owner and person.
I’m so grateful, humbled, nervous and excited to be speaking at the Tennessee Soap and Candle Social in Chattanooga on March 24th. First of all, I love Tennessee! I’ve been to Memphis once and Nashville twice. I went to Graceland and Beale Street in Memphis (my favorite place on Beale is A. Schwab. I found some of my soap dishes for my display table there) and all the touristy places in Nashville, including a few performances at the Grand Ole Opry (I got see my favotire Lorrie Morgan!) There is something charming about southern cities. The people are friendly and welcoming. The weather is warm and sunny. And this time, I’ll be spending the weekend with soap makers, my favorite kind of people.
My friend Rachel owns Music City Suds and is the organizer of the event. She put out a request for speakers and I volunteered. Speaking in public makes me a little nervous and uncomfortable. I’ve been trying to push out of my comfort zone, so I said yes. I’m speaking about saving money by utilizing that last bit of soap batter and soap scraps. I’ll be joined by other amazing speakers including Charlene Simon, Holly Port, Roslyn Johnson, Bethany Petri, Brooke Stant and Kayla Fioravanti. Some of the workshops include candle making, event planning and aromatherapy. There will be talks about running a business too. I’m going to need to bring a large suitcase because there’s also time for “garage sale-ing” (everyone brings soap and candles items they no longer need to sell) and vendor shopping. I’ll be selling my soap visors.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to speak and travel to Chattanooga. I love seeing old soap friends and look forward to meeting new ones. I have a feeling I’ll love Chattanooga too.
I hate bridges. Let me clarify that. I hate driving over bridges. I don’t like being a passenger in a car going over a bridge, but that’s much easier for me to deal with than being the driver. For the first few years of my driving life, I dealt with this fear by avoiding any driving that had me going over a bridge. However, with living on Long Island, that proved to be a challenge. After a few years of realizing this was no way to live, I forced myself to drive over small bridges. Finally, I started driving over larger ones. Despite my success, bridges still make me uncomfortable.
My husband had the flu last week and we were supposed to baby sit for my grandson Luke. This means a trip off Long Island driving across a bridge. Clearly, I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to see Luke, so over the Throgs Neck Bridge I drive.
As I’m driving I’m remembering how many years ago, this might have put me into a panic attack. I still don’t like it, and I notice my hands clench the steering wheel. I start to sweat and I sing out loud as I drive (I always sing “Let there be Peace on Earth” I don’t know why, but that’s what I sing.) However, I continue to drive over that damn bridge.
So it seems to me I will always have issues with bridges, but I’m not going to let it stop me from doing what I want. I’m learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, and it’s something I need to re-learn Every. Single. Day. I had fears about starting Alegna Soap®, fears about speaking in public and I felt the fear and did it anyway. My only regret is that it took me so long to figure out that facing a fear is not a one time thing, it’s a process I need to repeat constantly. My reward for facing my fear of bridges was having Luke all to myself Friday night.
How do you deal with your fears? Do you have any coping mechanisms you can share in the comments?
I started laughing as I typed “Typical day in the life of a soap maker”. There is no typical day. And most days are not spent making soap. I’ll show you 2 back-to-back days in my life as a soap maker so you can see.
Day 1 in the life of a soap maker
My alarm goes off at 4:45 and I hit snooze twice. I’m in the shower a little after 5 and dressed and ready by 5:30. I start a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, make (and eat) my breakfast, make my lunch and pack my car for work. I’m on the road at 6:45.
During the day I work in a school district in the science department. I call myself the Science Materials Coordinator because I take care of all the details the teachers and administrators are too busy to do. I get in at 7:30 and I leave at 2:45. During my lunch hour I usually like to take a walk. I knew it would be too cold today so I brought in a box of soap to wrap. Check one more Alegna Soap® item off my to-do list.
I get home at 3:30 and I set my timer for 20 minutes so I can read the paper and have a cup of tea. Then I went downstairs to my happy place (aka soap studio). I start planning the development of my next product. Once I turned my computer on, I researched the oils I wanted to use, their properties and cost. Brian came home and I decide to call it a night. It was 7:30. (Holy crap, where did the time go?) Neither one of us had planned dinner but there are leftovers in the fridge. At 8 we are both on the couch watching TV, and I have my lap top out so I can catch up on emails and plan tomorrow. We go to bed around 10:30.
Day 2 in the life of a soap maker
My alarm goes off at 4:45 and once again I hit the snooze button twice (I should just set the damn thing for 5!). I shower, get dressed and ready but today it takes me a little longer. I take a container of chili out of the freezer to defrost, finish my usual routine and I’m at work by 7:30.
Today I got the idea for this blog post so at lunch I quickly jot down what I did yesterday and this morning. I try to use every minute of time I have during the day to get things done for Alegna Soap® because having a full time job and a soap business takes pretty much every ounce discipline I have. So I work while I eat.
I leave work at 2:45 again, but today I have 2 soap deliveries to do and errands to run. I need materiel for under my soap labels so after the deliveries I stop at Joanne’s Fabrics. They have exactly what I need, and I’m in and out quickly.
It’s 5pm when I get home. Since I have a package from Wholesales Supplies Plus waiting for me I skip the tea and newspaper. I scheduled an after school bath fizzie class in one of the elementary schools I work at and I needed supplies. I unpack the order and organize the class. I’m done by 6:30 and decide to make a salad and heat up the chili. I eat, but Brian isn’t home yet. I go back downstairs and start writing this. He comes in at 8 and I’m finishing up. I have tea while he eats and we’re back on the couch, and in bed by 10.
Typical day in the life of a soap maker
On other days I may be getting caught up with bookkeeping, ordering supplies, checking inventory, emailing stockists and/or updating my website. I may be teaching a class, catching up and posting on social media (which is never ending), going over a presentation I’m giving for a conference, and/or helping a soap student with a problem. Most days I’m not making any products, something people don’t believe when I tell them. I do find it difficult to do everything I want to with Alegna Soap® and working a job during the day. I’m grateful for the income I make from the school system and I try to make due with the time I have. And I’m also grateful for the challenge of working a day job and running a company. I’ve learned to use my time wisely, and that lesson can be applied to many areas of my life.
Did you think a soap maker’s typical day would be spent making soap?
I’ve decided to give some advice to myself, the same advice I’d give a friend. After a busy soap selling season, and a very difficult year after losing my father, I seem to really need it.
Make healthier food choices
Lately, I’m the queen of junk food. If it’s quick and easy, I grab it. If I felt good, I wouldn’t care. But I feel like the crap I eat. And the sad thing is, I know as I’m putting it in my mouth I’m going to feel like crap in 20 minutes, but I do it anyway because it feels good in the moment. I need to plan my weekly menu so I have good things in my refrigerator to grab quickly.
Find some time to move every day
Stretch, jog in place, life some weights while watching TV, walk during my lunch hour. These are easy, quick things I need to do. Just incorporate more movement into my day, sounds easy, right?
Get more sleep
I hate to see the day end. I think it’s because I have so little time for myself. Usually by 9pm I plop myself down in front of the TV and watch mindless reruns until 11. Maybe if I sit and read the book I can’t seem to get to, I’ll have an hour for myself, get tired faster and be in bed by 10.
Say no more often
Especially to things I don’t really want to do personally or for my business. That way I can say yes to spending more time with my family and friends. I need to remember that every yes to something means a no to something else.
Forgive myself for the mistakes I made
It’s hard to move forward when I’m stuck in the past cringing about something stupid I said or did. I should forgive myself as easily as I forgive others.
I think if I can master just one of these items my body, mind and spirit will be grateful. What do you think of my advice to myself? Do you have any thoughts to help me achieve these goals?