Making Crafty Magic

A Few Cautionary Tales

I was just swapping consignment horror stories with a friend this morning and I decided that maybe it’s time I shared mine. I wanted it to not sting as much before I went and said something publicly, for fear I’d say too much, but the burn is never going to go away. Let’s just ease into this with a brief lesson on retail and some definitions. Besides selling at events or online, there are a few ways people can get their crafts into the clutching hands of the masses:

1. Wholesale–This is when the crafter sells their product(s) to a retail store owner (aka the wholesaler) at a 50% discount off the retail price. Then the retail store owner marks up the product(s) by 50% (or whatever they wish). The retail store owner usually pays the crafter for the products upfront so this is usually a desirable scenario for the crafter. The only downfall being that they only make 50% of their potential retail sales. That’s why it’s always best to cultivate those personal sales and vending opportunities.

2. Space Rental–This seems to be rare but this is the deal I had at The Treehouse and I loved it. Every four months I signed a rental agreement and was responsible for paying a set sum of money each month. This set sum of money was put towards the cost of running the store and with 30+ crafters pitching in, the system worked. At first we all paid the same amount in rent but over time it was adjusted to more accurately reflect a small percentage of each crafters sales. For example, selling five bars of soap each month at $5 each doesn’t come close to a fine artist selling a painting for $200 or a jewelry maker selling ten pairs of earrings for $35 each. (Truth be told, anywhere you go, the soaper will usually make the least because they’re selling $5 items instead of $30 t-shirts or $50 necklaces. Each crafter could sell 10 of each and there’d be a huge difference in profit. It makes me chuckle sometimes because I think a lot of folks assume I’m making bank by selling soap but that’s soooooo faaaaaar from the truth. I’d do a million times better if I just focused on selling jewelry or handbags but I’m too in love to give it up [Soap, I can’t quit you!].) So the only drawback I’ve experienced from this system is having all crafters pay equal rent. If you find yourself in that situation either get out or renegotiate.

3. Consignment–This is where my cautionary tale begins. Consignment is where a crafter places their products in a shop and waits for them to sell. Once something sells, the crafter usually gets 60% of the retail price and the shop owner gets 40%. You can see this is a better deal than the 50% with wholesaling. However, with consignment you don’t get paid until something sells whereas wholesaling you get paid right from the start and your worries are over. Usually people go for the wholesaling deal because that 10% difference is worth not having to worry about what happens to your product after it leaves you.

I very, very rarely will do consignment now and if I do it’s only in very small batches that I can stand to lose…because there’s a chance I will lose! For over a year I had my products in a soap shop in the Hudson Valley. The shop owner made her own bath and body care products but approached me about helping her fill in the gaps. For example, she didn’t make shampoo, cleaning sprays, liquid soaps, beer soaps… and she wanted to offer those products to her customers. Everything was fantastic for over a year. I was paid every month, she contacted me as soon as I was low on something, and I even made extra money by watching the store for her on occasion. I was building a great customer base out of that store.

Then things went south for her and her business when she completed an extremely large wholesale order and the buyer decided that she was going to pursue a refund through Paypal because she wasn’t in love with the fragrance. Places like Ebay, Etsy and Paypal believe that the customer is always right so they allowed the wholesaler to remove the money from her account. She made a several thousand dollar order and never got paid for it and none of it was ever returned. So let her story caution you! There is very little online protection for sellers and a ton for buyers. It’s an extremely unfair, one-sided system. Seller beware! Her story only gets worse but I won’t go there. Let’s just say that you should always be wary of large wholesale orders unless you know the person. At least send them a sample of the exact thing you’re going to make for them so if something goes wrong you’ll be able to say that they knew exactly what they were getting.

From there things began to spin out of control for her and she couldn’t keep up. To put this in time perspective, I had completely filled her store when I left for Yellowstone in May, she even had extra stock in the back. We were all square at that point. When I returned from Yellowstone in August, she was, unbeknownst to me, in the throes of all this drama. I went to visit her and the store to see if anything needed restocking AND to ask her why I hadn’t been paid since April. She told me I hadn’t been paid because nothing of mine had really sold. Humm, from April to August nothing had sold? I was onto her.

Soon after that she had lost the store and became impossible to contact. Over the next few months she became extremely slippery. Eventually, I sent her a very legalese email saying that I, in the very least, wanted my products returned to me by such and such date or I’d take her to small claims court. I even was kind enough to state that this wasn’t about the money she owed me, we could work that out at a later date–perhaps a payment plan–I just wanted my products back. She responded by saying that she’d “mail” them to me. Now, she lives just a few minutes from my house and I offered time and again to pick them up. Why spend money you don’t have to ship stuff across town? Seems kinda dumb…or devious? Calling her bluff, I said okay, but that I’d require a tracking number so that I could make sure the packages didn’t get lost. Well, I heard nothing back. Shocking!

I went to an event where I knew she was vending to confront her. (She was there with all my beer soap so at least I was able to get that back.) Right there in the middle of the farmers market she broke down while recounting what she’d been through in the last few months. I felt awful for her but told her that she had to remain in contact with me so we could get this all sorted out. At the time she thankfully agreed and was glad that I wasn’t going to pursue small claims court. Well, long story short, soon after she took the rest of my stuff and moved across the country. I still see Facebook posts on how she had a great day vending at such and such market and how she made a lot of money. What people don’t know is that she’s made a lot of money off of me and is still doing so. I wish I could reveal her but she is sooooo litigious that I can see her suing me for harassment or defamation so I don’t want to go there.

I hope by telling this story you don’t make the same mistake I did. In hindsight, I should have pulled out of the store when I returned in August. As soon as I saw that ship was sinking, I should have bailed. I wish I could say that having a contract with her would have made a difference, but I know that she’d have just as easily broken it. At least maybe this will save someone else. It was my first retail experience and it definitely was a lesson and luckily I’m wiser for it.

Making Crafty Magic

Making Crafty Magic

I’ve been on a creation kick lately and I thought I’d share with you some of the things that I’ve made, just for crafts and giggles.

craft projects
From top left working clockwise: 1. I finally finished my double-sided t-shirt quilt. It took me years to complete but I love the final result. 2. A bag and wallet made from t-shirt scraps. I’m still debating on whether I should sell them or keep them. 3. These were a custom pair of earrings for a friend’s mother. They came out really sweet. I forgot how gratifying making jewelry can be. 4. My knit chair cozies were made from a thrifted pocket scarf that was previously owned by a giant. You could tell it was handmade but someone got rid of it because it was just enormous. I cut the scarf in half and now I have a place to put all of my sewing items when they’re not in use. Score.
skull quilt
I’ve had an obsession with skulls for as long as I can remember (me and every other twelve-year-old girl). This has led to having an overabundance of skull clothing. Most items were worn out or Petunia has baby-bit them to shreds. (Baby Bites=when Petunia nibbles at clothing to the point of creating holes.) At first I was going to make a wrap skirt out of them but then just decided that my butt-ugly, yet comfy chair needed a proper cover. I also have an old comforter that I refuse to get rid of for sentimental reasons so I used that for the backing and also to make cushions out of. Voila!
Soap ingredients and fabric labels
Since December was great for sales, I made enough money to reinvest in kicking things up a notch or two. I designed some awesome fabric labels through Spoonflower, purchased a load of natural soap colorants and exfoliants, reordered lotka seed paper, more soap labels are on their way, sodium and potassium hydroxide just arrived, bulk oils are coming and I have a whole world of new soap gadgets to put to good use. I just need to order shipping envelopes and I should be set for most of 2014. That’s a fantabulous feeling!

Making Crafty Magic

Hall & Oats-n-Honey

Today, I’m offering a peek into the creation of Hall & Oats-n-Honey Soap. This is the most gentle soap I make. It’s unscented and uses the most simple, basic ingredients one can find at a grocery store: organic coconut milk, oats, and honey (you could even use olive oil from the store as your soap base and call it a day). Coconut milk offers an assortment of vitamins and fats which actually help to clean your skin without stripping it. And we all know oats are soothing and fantastic for the skin…right? I just happen to prefer steel cut oats because they’re mildly exfoliating when added at trace. Honey has antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties so it’s a fantastic healer. The only issue I have with it is that it’s a humectant so it absorbs and retains moisture which is great for the skin but it also makes for an oily feeling bar of soap. That’s no biggie but packaging sweaty bars can get a little tricky. Nevertheless, the results are worth it.

And without further ado, here are some soapy pics:

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In the process of making my most gentle, cold processed soap: Hall & Oats-n-Honey. Made with vegetable oils, organic coconut milk, and duh, oats and honey.
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The addition of the main ingredients. You don’t need a lot of either. Too much honey and your soap will feel very oily, even once it’s fully cured. Too many oats and the soap with crumble apart in your hands.
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This is what honey does once it’s added to your soap. Don’t panic. Just enjoy the cool color while you can because it will go away. Bummer.
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A soap with honey in it naturally needs a honeycomb texture so that’s where the bubble wrap comes in. Line the mold first, then lay down the bubble wrap layer so that it’s in direct contact with the soap. I’ve done this the opposite way and it sucked! I can’t go for that. No, nooooh. No can do!
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Unwrap 24 hours later and this is what you have. The dark spots are oily patches from the honey…nothing to worry about.
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Cut and cure, preferably for 4 to 6 weeks if you can manage it. I always cut off the raggedy ends and save them for myself. I have no problem using the thin ends after a week of curing. I enjoy getting first dibs.

My ponderings on honey…

First, let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a beekeeping or honey expert. I’m just passing along what I know and I freely admit that there’s much more to learn. Although I’m trying to go the vegan route in my products, I have no intention of giving up honey and beeswax. I have friends and acquaintances who are passionate, conscientious beekeepers. In fact, beekeeping hobbyists–along with organic farmers, scientists and apiculturists–are on the frontlines of preventing the total collapse of honey bee populations and I want to do what I can to support them. (Here’s a little factoid for yah: Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, are pollinated by bees.)

Always shop local and shop small, especially when it comes to honey (eating local honey helps with seasonal allergies). I recommend buying your honey at farmers markets and craft fairs. This way you can casually inquire about their harvesting practices. Certainly make sure they are harvesting just the surplus honey. Bees need honey too. It especially sustains them through the colder months. Yet, many beekeepers will take it all (usually in the Fall when their biological need for it begins to increase) and replace it with corn syrup. Corn syrup is definitely not the same thing. Honey has anti-oxidant and antimicrobial properties, corn syrup does not. This, among a zillion other issues, has led to starvation and disease among colonies. And while you’re talking, you may also want to inquire about any herbicides and insecticides being sprayed nearby that may inadvertently find its way into the colony and into your honey.

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Disclaimer: Statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat and cure or prevent disease or substitute care by a medical practitioner. All recommendations are believed to be effective, but since actual use of this product is beyond our control and can vary from individual to individual, no guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken.

Making Crafty Magic

Where the magic happens

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A colorful panorama here. I cannot praise the baker’s rack enough. All of my Sweet Pea’s inventory goes right there, where I can easily find it. The tablecloth is oil-cloth from the Salvation Army. Such a great find for a buck. Oil-cloth is the best stuff on earth.
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Pouty Petunia wondering what the heck I’m doing. Doesn’t she realize by now that I don’t have a clue?
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A former supervisor moved into an old farmhouse and this enormous clock was found in the shed. She was nice enough to give it to me. I’ll pretty much accept any cool junk that comes my way.
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I had to photograph my beloved Nutri-Bullet. I can’t leave home without it. I literally schlepped that thing to Yellowstone with me. Next to it is a Bitch wine bottle lamp I made. It’s full of tampons, just for irony.
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All of my favorite things displayed on one shelf. Look! A little, pink ET. Awe!
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My all time favorite gift is in this shot. My former roomie, Thom, made me a Salad Fingers puppet with a vase full of rusty spoons and a rusty tap for Valentines Day a few years ago. Best gift ever! Now he sits on top of my fridge and whispers sweet nothings to me all day. There’s also a piece of slate from a historic building in New Orleans up on the wall.
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I had to include my t-shirt rug in at least one shot! The glass jug (aka a carboy) and the large box next to the baker’s rack are beer making equipment. Yum! The large black square in the left corner is the temporary home of my reiki table until I find a more permanent place for it. And this reminds me that I need to hang that poster up that’s sitting behind it.
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Another BananaPanorama.
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My entry-way is what I consider to be my Cassandra Quackenbush gallery. I have all of her tiny art on display there, along with a bird’s nest, and my container garden.
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All of my plants are lined up against the wall here. Hopefully, they’re getting enough sun–fingers crossed. The bench stores all of my field biology and camping gear, plus it’s nice to sit on when you take your shoes off and sing “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It’s a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be, my neighbor?” Now, where’s my darn sweater?

As promised, here are some photos of my kitchen. Feel free to click on them to enlarge your view. This is where all the good stuff gets made–like beer, soap, salves and such. The dining room table doubles as my sewing table and it conveniently folds up so I can actually set up my reiki table in here. There’s a lot going on in this tiny space, that’s for certain, but I’ve found it a lot easier to use compared to the enormous kitchen in the barn. For example, a batch of soap would take me over 2.5 hours to make at the barn, whereas it only takes me an hour here. Cooking and making soap became a hassle because the kitchen at the barn was complete and utter chaos. This place is set up for efficiency and I’m actually enjoying the process of making things again.

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Meet the Artists

The Treehouse.
The Treehouse.

It’s that wonderful time of year when The Treehouse has it’s semi-bi-annual Meet the Artists Reception and Preview. Now is the time. Today is the freakin’ day people. Let’s do this! From 6 pm to 8 pm at 5 North Front Street in New Paltz, you can enjoy some snacks and beverages with the artists that make The Treehouse so darn eclectic and awesome. Come visit me. I would love to talk to you about what I do and answer any of your questions. We’ll laugh, we’ll cry, and we’ll have a great time doing it.

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The last reception was a hoot! I got to meet so many wonderful people and I can’t wait to do it again!

Also, this Saturday is the last outdoor Saugerties Farmers Market of the season. If you hear some disembodied whimpering right now, don’t worry, that’s just me crying. The indoor winter market will start up at the end of October but sadly, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it. We shall see. In any case, please make an extra effort to come see me this Saturday if you need to purchase anything before the holidays. I will have more $2.00 soaps and $4.00 Halloween soaps, plus $1.00 soapy sticks. Concentrated liquid soaps are also back in stock: Lavender & Tea Tree, Lemongrass & Tea Tree and Sweet Orange & Tea Tree–8 ounces for $8.00. These liquid soaps can be diluted and used for dish washing, body washing, hair washing, dog washing, laundry washing, washing out someone’s dirty mouth…pretty much any washing need you may have. Plus, dilute a little bit in water, add some vinegar and lemon juice, and you have a fantastic household cleaner. And behold the awesomeness that is the $6.00, 2.25 ounce deodorant made with beeswax; neem oil; lemongrass, sweet orange and tea tree essential oils; olive oil infused with herbs; and shea & cocoa butter. This is some seriously good stuff here–it’s like a salve on steroids–and I will have it available. It can be used as a lotion, as a solid perfume (because it smells fantastic!) or a deodorant. And if none of this sounds even remotely appealing, remember, I don’t just sell soaps in my booth. Heck no! I also sell bags, table runners, tea cozies, and jewelry so there’s lots of shopping to be had.

IMG_20130907_134315As always, I will be available via Etsy (and I’m working on adding a store to this site) but my vending schedule is still being worked out. If you know of any events that you think I’d like to attend, please let me know. I want to do as many shows as possible this season. Ling Ling is getting her scarves ready to sell (she outsold me last week…jerk!) so we’ll be able to divide and conquer the craft show circut.

Essential Oil Deodorant & Solid Perfume Bar: infused herbs, beeswax, neem oil, butters, tea tree, lemongrass, sweet orange, salve, body bar

Health, Wellness & Enjoyment

Building more than I burn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOh October, I’m not even through my first day of you and already you have me grabbing my ankles! I’m already at an emotional disadvantage because I told my better half that I needed October off to get my head on straight and now I find myself laid up with a sinus infection from hell AND my job has been further downsized to only one day a week. What the heck is happening here? How am I supposed to get through this seemingly never-ending downward spiral? Well, like the cockroach I am, I know deep down inside that I’ll be the last one standing. I’m stubbornly tenacious like that. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARight now–instead of completely panicking–I’m trying to take the zen approach to these recent setbacks. The reality is that I need to build more bridges and burn less of them. I need to expand Sweet Pea’s Groceries, sew more Hazardous Materials, create more jewelry, and really put my shit out there. I think there’s been this internal assumption that no one wants what I offer. Crazy but true. I didn’t even realize it until last week when I meekly contacted a store owner to ask if she was interested in carrying my products and she was like of course I want your stuff, duh! This was a revelation for me. People want my stuff. Who would have thought?! Why aren’t I giving the people what they want? What’s my problem? This could be my full-time job if I only built the proper bridges. Uh Duh! (Is this what Oprah calls a lightbulb moment?) So October, that’s what you’re going to be about. I’m reaching out, not shrinking back. I’m silencing my mother’s voice which is on an ingrained continuous loop in my subconscious mind. Thirty-seven years of teaching me that failure is something to be feared. Thirty-seven years of teaching me that it’s better to never have tried than to have tried and failed. I can’t do it anymore. (And no, this is nothing against my mother in any way. I’m grateful that I have her. We all have fears and she’s certainly not the only person to have projected them onto his/her kids as a means of protecting them.) Oh October, you’re either going to be good for me or the death of me and I’m not giving up until I know for sure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI also want to take the chance to express my gratitude for the bridges that are continuously being built by others that lead directly to me. I’m so lucky to meet people through this blog, my websites, through Etsy, and at tabling events who completely take my breath away. A perfect example is Lisa. She contacted me a few weeks ago through my Etsy shop because she wanted to learn more about my natural laundry soap. Come to find out, Lisa’s a single mother with end stage liver disease. I was completely blown away by her honesty, humor, and determination. Well, we’ve been trading information on insomnia cures, health insurance and soap making ever since. Let me tell you, she has the most amazing sense of humor. Her emails leave me rolling! She recently published her own website–www.checkinguout.wordpress.com–where she writes product reviews. Hopefully, she will write more about herself in the future because she’s such an inspiration. Knowing her, even briefly, has definitely helped put my life in perspective. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe above photos were taken of and from the Wurts bridge which extends over the Roundout Creek in Kingston. I absolutely love this bridge. Petunia and I try to walk it several times a week. Ironically, I read a passage from Anne Rice’s The Tale of the Body Thief last night that captures my sentiment (and it’s about New Orleans so it’s doubly apt):

It was an empty field close to the wharves, stretching beneath the giant pylons of the freeways which led to the high twin river bridges which I have always called, since the first moment I beheld them, the Dixie Gates. I must confess these bridges have been given some other, less charming name by the official world. But I pay very little attention to the official world. To me these bridges will alway be the Dixie Gates, and I never wait too long after returning home before I go to walk near them and admire them, with all their thousands of tiny twinkling lights. Understand they are not fine aesthetic creations such as the Brooklyn Bridge….They do not have the solemn grandeur of San Francisco’s Golden Gate. But they are bridges, nevertheless, and all bridges are beautiful and thought-provoking; and when they are fully illuminated as these bridges are, their many ribs and girders take on a grand mystique.

Tutorials

The T-shirt Rug

I thoroughly enjoy making quilts out of t-shirts. I would like to submit Exhibit A, B, and C into evidence:

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Exhibit A: my own t-shirt quilt in the making.
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Exhibit B: a Christmas present for my supervisor’s hubby
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Exhibit C: a baby quilt for sweet little Sophia.

And although t-shirt quilt making is totally awesome, it generates a lot of waste. If you’re like me, you feel bad throwing out all that good fabric so you hoard it. You hoard it to the point that you actually have a contractor bag full of this crap and you’re perfectly willing to haul all 50 pounds of it from your home, to the storage unit, and then into your tiny new apartment. No biggie, it’s all in a days work for the avid sewist! I knew eventually this collecting would pay off at some point. And did it! A few months ago I found a t-shirt rug tutorial on one of the gazillion diy blogs I stalk. Bingo! Instant affirmation that hoarding does indeed pay off. So here’s how it turned out:

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Voila! My diy rug-making masterpiece!
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Yup, I wear socks with thongs (yes, I call flip-flops thongs). I’m not ashamed. I go out of the house like this. I even have special big-toe socks just for thong wearing. Yes, I’m fully aware that someone’s going to call What Not to Wear on me one of these days.

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To make your very own t-shirt rug, here is a helpful tutorial. The base for their rug is a towel which is totally ingenious! I wish I’d thought of that before I started. I used a heavyweight (and butt-ugly piece) of upholstery fabric that I would never use otherwise. The person in the tutorial used a triple stitch, which I cannot advise enough. You’re going to be walking on this thing so it’s gotta be durable. Not to mention that it has to withstand frequent Risky Business Tom Cruise dancing. I suggest the triple stitch but also a zig-zig to account for any stretching the fabric may do. If you don’t have the triple feature on your machine than do what I did and use a straight stitch and then go back over it with a zig-zag. Then, to make it a non-slip rug, I added hot glue to the back. Yup, another little tip I picked up from the diy ether. I ran the hot glue all down my stitches on the back just for a little added insurance. I would advise starting out with something small, like a bath mat. It takes a lot of fabric to make the size rug I did. A lot! Like I said, it took easily a garbage bag full of t-shirts to make this rug. It’s super awesome though!

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Straight stitch and then zig-zag the heck out of it. Go over it as many times as you can even…or utilize the triple stitch option if you have it. Then run over your stitches with some hot glue for some added slip protection.
Uncategorized

Where is my mind?

Today I engaged in some soap photography (aka soapy porn) for my Etsy shop and I couldn’t help but chuckle at how humorously absurd I am sometimes. Here I am, freshly moved into my new apartment, the neighbors don’t know who the heck I am and I’m on my porch wearing Mrs. Roper’s muumuu (I prefer moo-moo); a knit shawl complete with a large bejeweled medallion; dancing around to Sinatra, the Beach Boys and Ray Charles; and over-enthusiastically taking photos of soap, of all things, like Austin Powers. Yeah, baby! Yes! Yes! No! No! People must think I’ve completely lost it. Which makes me wonder, was Chuck Palahniuk thinking of me when he created Tyler Durden’s character in Fight Club? I mean we are eerily similar and growing more so by the day. We are both snazzy dressers, soap makers and off our rockers.  Just pondering the likeness…soap 016 soap 017 soap 018

 

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Happenings this Weekend

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This Saturday, I will once again be at the Saugerties Farmers Market from 10 am to 2 pm so please stop on by. I’d be honored to see your beautiful, smiling mug. The sales are as follows: $1.00 soapy sticks, $2.00 bars of One Delicious Buzz and Benjamin Button, $4.00 glycerin soaps and $5.00 salves. And let me just take this opportunity to express how much I enjoy meeting and hanging out with my fellow vendors. Last week I was happily sandwiched between Grey Mouse Farm and Shoving Leopard Farm and we had way more fun than should be allowed. At the end of the market I gifted Marina from Shoving Leopard one of my salves because some of her garden weeds had done a number on her arms. In turn, she ended up giving me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers and a huge hug. I was so touched that I walked away almost in tears. What she didn’t realize was that I had been eyeing her beautiful flowers for the entire market. Early on I pondered buying a bouquet but decided that I couldn’t afford such a splurge on myself. So for the rest of the day I dreamed about someday receiving such a nice a gift and how they would brighten up my new apartment and how someday I hope that I can make enough money to enjoy fresh flowers all the time…the daydreaming goes on and on.  And voila, the world listened! Thank you! Thank you! She was even nice enough to snap the above photos of my booth without giving me a hard time for making such an odd request. Ahh…the world is full of wonderful people and the farmers market has many of them!

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Deals Galore Tomorrow

946901_10151406535556058_2063893226_nYou can find me at the Saugerties Farmers Market tomorrow from 10 am to 2 pm. This will be my first market since I’ve returned from the wild west. Yay! It’s good to be back. I’m dying to make some room in my tiny new apartment so salves will be marked down (from $8.50 to now $5.00–worth every penny!) and some of my soaps will be as well.  Benjamin Button and One Delicious Buzz will be $2.50/bar so get them while they last. Soapy Sticks will be $1.50. Plus, I have a lot of new jewelry to sell. And if I get the chance, I may set up my clothes rack and sell some sewn items too…you just never know. I hope to see you there!