Monday, November 28, 2011

One of These Things Does Not Belong!

Well, the holiday season is upon us and I can tell the busy season has hit because I will be posting half the blog posts this month as in the two previous months. Whoops!

My husband and I have always had a "not till after Thanksgiving Day" policy regarding all things Christmas (except for buying gifts - I'll do that year-round if I see the perfect thing for someone!) Alas, this policy, like so many, has been completely ignored by our children. Our oldest especially, as he is eight and is An Authority on Just About Everything.

He is also very adept at getting into the boxes in the garage, and so delved into a Christmas box early. After strictly informing him that the box would be the only one to be opened early or he forfeits a Christmas present, I allowed the kids to get the stuff out of the box and start to decorate the house last week.

One of their favorite things is the Fisher Price Little People nativity set. All three love this toy, even though anything "Little People" in our regular toy selection is considered "baby stuff" by the boys. They had much fun and merriment setting the nativity up and setting out all the figures just so. I didn't really pay much attention until I went to look out the window at some deer the other day.

Can you spot the anomaly?

Just in case you need a hint:

Somehow I don't think the baby Jesus had blond hair, a pink bow, or a cuddly teddy bear. That would be because this is the baby from my daughter's Mom & Baby Minivan set. Apparently the nativity baby Jesus was missing, so the kids had to substitute. 

All you purists out there can relax, the real Little People Baby Jesus was found later that day. All is well in the world once again!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Winner Announced!

Congrats to @hminnesota for winning my Twitter lotion giveaway! :) 

I'll be having another giveaway once I reach 250 "likes" on my facebook page, so pop on over and click that thumbs up button, ya hear?

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Leaves Are A-Changin'!

The weather has been up and down, clear and rainy, calm and windy, and mild and cold over the past two weeks... which means, it is fall! Even though we had a very cold, wet summer, it seemed to redeem itself in the end and cling on a bit longer than usual, so fall was pushed back a bit. I was starting to think winter was going to force fall to abdicate and muscle in early because it seemed to be getting colder but the colors in the trees weren't changing.

However, I have noticed as I've been driving around this past week that there IS some beautiful color happening in our trees right now. Here is proof from my own back yard!

I love the evening sunlight in the fall and winter, too. It gets that gorgeous lemony color that I don't recall seeing in the spring and summer. I happened to run in and grab my camera just in time to capture this leaf aglow from the setting sun. Within two clicks of my camera, the sun had already dropped just enough that the light had changed and the moment was gone.

It reminded me that life itself is full of fleeting moments, and when you have one happen to you, you had better enjoy it fully because if you blink a couple times, you might miss it. As fall is rapidly giving way to the rush of the holidays that heralds the beginning of winter, I am making a vow to myself to make sure I stop blinking sometimes and open my eyes fully to those moments so that I don't miss them. Maybe I'll even have my camera handy, and I can share some of them with you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

500 Followers and a Giveaway

500 Followers on Twitter! Hooray!

To celebrate, I'm having a giveaway. The winner will receive one 8-oz lotion in any of my new fall/winter scents: Enchanted Apple, Spiced Fig, Sparkling Plum, or Lump of Coal. Keep it for yourself or make someone happy by giving it as a gift!

Entering is easy, you can enter up to three times:

1. Tweet it! "I want to win lotion from @rightasrain - my scent of choice would be __________" (and obviously replace the blank with your choice of the four available scents)

2. Leave a comment on this blog entry. Just be sure to leave your Twitter name so I can find you.

3. Leave a comment on my Facebook business page (feel free to "like" my page, by the way) - again, be sure to leave your Twitter name so I can find you:

It's that simple! You may enter using each of the three methods once, for a grand total of three entries per person. NOTE: You must be following me at the time of the drawing in order to win, since this is a "thank you" to all my Twitter followers! :)

I'm sure I probably need legal jargon here. Something like all entries are free, drawing will be selected using a random number generator, I'll do my best to make the drawing fair and square, and don't sue me for any reason, because HEY, free giveaway! Note to foreign country participants: Make sure it is legal to receive my products before entering my contest. Thank you.

Edited to add: Would you like to see/read up on your choices? That might be helpful, yes? Just click each picture to go see its description & more pictures!

Um, edited again to add: Contest ends at 11:59 pm Monday, November 7th. Drawing will be sometime the next day or the day after and I will announce it forthwith. Posthaste, even. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two New Lotions and an SNS!

I've had a busy day today - especially considering I'm on my 2nd migraine in two days. I did some product photography this morning, cleaned up the pictures a bit and listed my two newest lotion scents - my holiday ones!

Sparkling Plum is a lovely sweet plum complimented by a hint of tangy citrus and softened with a touch of jasmine and light musk. A very feminine scent that I think is just gorgeous.

Lump of Coal is just flat out fun. Star anise and vanilla blend perfectly to create a scent so tempting, you'll have everyone leaning in for another whiff.

PLUS, today is Saturday, which means it is time for Etsy's SNS (Saturday Night Special) hooray! Visit my shop and use coupon code "SNS1029" to save 25% off EVERYTHING! This sale only lasts until 6 am EST Sunday so better get shopping!

Check out the SNS thread on Etsy - lots of good sales going on tonight!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Homemade Applesauce

Very few things smell or taste better than fresh, warm homemade applesauce.

I made some today for my kids. We bought the apples 2 1/2 weeks ago when we went to the pumpkin farm, which is also a major apple farm in the area (BelleWood Acres) - the cashier recommended I wait a couple weeks before making applesauce because the apples would be sweeter and need less added sugar.

The apples most recommended for applesauce are Gala, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Fuji.

I used 8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced. I added them to a pan with 1 1/2 cups of water (which easily could have been reduced to just one cup... I had to let some of the liquid cook off at the end). Then I added 1/4 cup of sugar, several dashes of ground cinnamon and two dashes of ground cloves. The cinnamon and cloves are basically to personal taste - you could add them after cooking if you aren't sure where you stand on your spice levels. :)

Cook over medium heat until the apple slices are soft and easily mashed. You can then mash them in the pot for a lumpier sauce or run it through a food grinder for a smoother sauce.

Here are my kiddos enjoying the fruits of my labor. Well, two of my three, anyway - my younger son (the pickiest of my three) devoured his bowl so quickly, I didn't have time to get a picture!

I put one container in the freezer for later and the rest in the fridge for this week! I'm thinking pork chops might be in our near future.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Take A Closer Look

I spend half my time browsing Etsy impressed by the products offered by amazingly talented artisans. I spend the other half of my browsing time impressed by their product photography. This is something I've spent years striving to improve (and believe me, there has been improvement! Y'all should see the first items I listed on Etsy. In fact, if you went to my sold history and looked at the first pages, you could!) and I'm always appreciative of other sellers who do it well.

So I made a treasury list of items I thought had excellent detail and perspective in the first listed photo of that item. I encourage you to click the picture to visit my treasury, then actually click some of the individual items so that you can see the detail I am talking about!

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Brain Is Going in Too Many Directions

This week has been so busy! Of course, there are a lot of weeks I say that now that I have three kids in school. Which reminds me that I wish the "Now" me could go back and tell the "Then" me that it was true what parents of older children warned me about life being busier once kids start school. Seriously, I thought having the kids in school would free up all this extra time for me to have to myself (and in some ways it has) BUT it also means that the time outside of that is FULL OF STUFF. Appointments, field trips, parent/teacher conferences, not to mention the other stuff I'm involved in - which I try to keep to a minimum, but it seems that this year in particular, things are just getting out of hand AND MY KIDS AREN'T EVEN IN SPORTS YET. I just don't know how other moms do it! Of course, I've been assured that those other moms are saying the exact same thing about all other moms too.

Mostly, I just feel that there are all these things I want to do, that even when I have some free time to do something, I don't even know which thing to do first, and I get overwhelmed and end up doing nothing - just waste time playing a game on facebook or reading an actual book. Or a book on my Kindle, which is a real book, but not an ACTUAL book. All you avid readers out there will know what I mean.

[side note: I love my Kindle. I was afraid it would detract from my enjoyment of holding and reading an actual book, but it hasn't. I still read actual books - now I just have the chance to read MORE books because I can buy the actual books that I really want, and I can ALSO get cheaper e-books to sample new authors or genres. Since I have a hard time allowing books to leave my shelves (even ones I didn't love all that much) this has also helped the space issues we have in our house. I mean, a person can only physically store so many books in her home before her children start asking for their closet space back...]

All this to say - I wish I had more time to devote to my many interests and passions. One of which is photography and photo-enhancement/alteration. I play around and I love it, but I lose all confidence when I see the spectacular work that is out there. Trolling etsy, looking at photography, I alternate between "wow, that person is SO talented, I'd be wasting my time listing my stuff" and "wow, my stuff is definitely better than that, I should list it!" Which sounds extremely rude and pretentious now that I've typed it out, ha.

So, before I bore you to death, here is my Red Dahlia.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

NEW Scent in My Shop!

I ordered my fall scents over a month ago and so far have managed to get ONE of them made and listed. Is that sad? Probably. Is that life? With three kids - definitely. Things just get in the way sometime.

That being said, I chose Enchanted Apple to be the first in line, and if I do say so myself, it is amazing! My sister came over this weekend and took one sniff and had to have one!

Enchanted Apple takes advantage of the best of the apple world, being tart and sweet at the same time (how do apples DO that?) PLUS this particular apple scent is underlaid with a hint of jasmine and light musk, so it is fresh and fruity yet still manages to be soft and feminine too.

Just the color of the label makes me want to bite into a juicy apple!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Orange You Glad?

So, I have a bazillion things on my to-do list and what do I spend an hour this afternoon doing? Creating a  treasury list on Etsy, of course!

I just needed a mental break and putting together a treasury list is a lovely outlet for my creativity and love of window shopping while (very) marginally fulfilling my online promotion quota. Ok, that's probably a real stretch, as I don't think many people who view my treasury lists ever actually visit my shop, but I'm too tired to quibble with my non-logical side today so I'm letting it go.

Now, without further ado (because the previous ado was more than enough and it is time you get to witness the creative magnificence I have assembled) - here it is!

No, no ... no applause necessary. Just click on the picture and go click and comment on my treasury. That will be thanks enough. ;D

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pumpkin Patch Time!

I absolutely ADORE fall. The crunchy leaves, the wind in the trees, the stormy rainy days, cozy meals, and the annual family trip to the pumpkin patch!

This year we decided to try out BelleWood Acres - known mostly for their apples (and they are amazing!) but they also have a pumpkin patch. BONUS: you can ride in a train of apple carts pulled by a tractor. My kids were thrilled.

You get a gorgeous view of Mount Baker while selecting your pumpkins. They've set up a great photo opportunity to take advantage of it. The cart in front is our selection of pumpkins. My oldest was excited that his pumpkin was the tallest of the five.

 They also have a wonderful shopping area where you can buy fresh-made donut holes, apple cider, a wide variety of apples, caramel apples, cookies, other treats, and fun decorations! Plus, the kids can sit on this awesome rocking horse. Although, as you can see, my 2nd son was less than thrilled to share his turn with little sister, hahaha!

Despite the look on Thad's face, we had quite a fun time on this year's pumpkin picking trip. Our two boys both have extra needs plus our daughter is three, so family outings are always an unknown. Will they behave? Will we have a meltdown? Will more than one of them meltdown at the same time? (This has happened and is probably one of the most parenting stressors known to mankind, ha!) Thankfully this time everyone behaved (mostly - they ARE kids, after all - some whining is expected) and we all went home happy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More Soap!

I made more soap! This time, I even colored it. The excitement knows no limits now. I made a lavender shea butter soap, scented with lavender essential oil of course. I decided to pour most of the soap into the mold, reserving just about a quarter of it, to which I added some color. I was aiming for lavender, of course, but when I stirred in the color, it turned very very pink. However, I couldn't mess around with it because I needed to get the top layer poured before everything set up on me, so I figured "live and learn" and that this entire batch would be going into my own shower.

BUT... the next day when I went to un-mold it and cut it into bars, it was a very lovely lavender color! Hooray! The shade is more pink than blue, but it is definitely in the purple family. Phew!

In fact, here is a very rough picture - it was evening and the lighting was horrid, and this is right after I cut it, but I think it looks so pretty!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Did You Know I Like Moss?

I like moss. It is a staple here in the Pacific Northwest. My favorite color is green, and I believe this is heavily influenced by my love of moss. Also, I love the word "moss." Moss, moss, moss.

If you say "moss" enough times, it ceases to have any form, function, or meaning.

However, this treasury remains pretty! Click it, and you can go see it on Etsy, and click through to each item to truly appreciate it (maybe even buy it!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ok, as promised... Here is my finished soap block:

And here is the soap cut into bars! 

Of course, now I have to wait 3-6 weeks for it to cure, but so far I think it is looking good!

I Made Soap!

Welcome to Scaredy Soapers Anonymous.

My name is Megan and I'm scared of making cold process soap. Why? Well, there is the whole "caustic lye" angle, but really it comes down to the trace.

What is trace, you ask? For those that don't know, when making cold process soap, you mix the lye into the water and then you separately heat up your oils (fats). Then when they've cooled to the same temperature (depending on your source, this should be somewhere between 80 and 120 degrees F) you blend them together, then stir like crazy until you reach TRACE - which is when everything is perfectly blended and the fats are no longer separating out, but before the mixture thickens up to the point where you can't pour it into your soap mold.

Trace makes my blood run cold. I never have done well with things that are under pressure time-wise. Like Thanksgiving dinner. Trying to get the turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls, stuffing, and green bean casserole all done at the same time is impossible for me. So the thought of bringing a mixture to trace and having only seconds to add in the fragrance & coloring, etc and then getting it stirred in and poured? I'm panicking just imagining it!

I've been making bath and body products from scratch for about six years now. I make lotion, cream, salve, lip balm, sugar scrubs, bath salts. I've even managed to make some liquid shampoo from scratch that wasn't half bad! I had some tracing issues (thus only adding to my fear) and I only ever made one batch, because my patience is about as long as a gnat's life span and I couldn't handle the cure time; which was another one of the main reasons I kept putting off making soap, ha!

However, I've long had soap lust over other B&B makers' soaps. They are so pretty! They are so fun to photograph! They are so easy to package! You don't have to be worried about them melting or leaking when you mail them to customers thousands of miles away!

So tonight, I made my first soap! I've actually gathered the equipment over several years (for instance, some of it I needed when I dipped into shampoo making) but over the last week, I've stocked up on the rest of the equipment and all the ingredients.

I even bought a book! I've read TONS of stuff online over the years, but I have to say the book is handy because everything is in one place. While waiting for my ingredients to arrive, I researched recipes. I found one that was simple and made one pound of soap. It seemed like a good place to start, but OF COURSE I couldn't leave it alone and used Majestic Mountain Sage's lye calculator to tweak it a little. Which may have been a mistake - see details later.

I laid out a towel. I set out my two containers, one for the heated oils and one for the lye solution. I pre-measured my ingredients, including my scent (Enchanting Apple!) and the colorant (which I stupidly put INTO the fragrance oil instead of dispersing into a teeny bit of water like I should have, thus causing the lovely apple-y green color to sink to the bottom and stick to the bowl and not make it into my soap at all. Mental note for next time.)

I had all my stirring utensils lined up, my thermometer ready, and my stick blender plugged in. Gloves on (and cuffed to catch any errant drips that might try to sneak down towards my elbows), goggles in place. My husband was oh so kind as to take a picture of me in all my fashionable glory. And for those of you wondering if I'm going to post said picture, the answer is HELL NO.

First I mixed my lye into my water, which involved a lot of stirring and not a whole lot of breathing (fumes are bad, mmmkay?) While that was cooling, I heated my oils. Then I waited for both to cool. When they were both around 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit, I poured my lye solution into my oils and used a stick blender to mix them together. According to one trusted source, this should have taken about 90 seconds.

This is where my fears surfaced and everything started going NOT according to my carefully arranged mental plan. At maybe the 30-second mark, I felt the mix was thickening faster than it was blending. I could still see swirls of oil that hadn't fully blended in - which is not ok, so I kept blending but my mixture was getting thicker. It was nearly pudding consistency and according to what I'd read, that was too thick. I don't even think I made it to 60 seconds of blending when I felt the mixture was fully blended and I added the fragrance oil and gave it a quick buzz to blend it in. I immediately poured it into my prepared mold, but it seemed very gloppy and thick to me. So now I'm nervous.

Was it because I tweaked the recipe to include shea butter? Maybe I should have increased the water in the lye solution just a bit to compensate (although the calculator recommended 4-6 ozs and I used 6 ozs). Did I blend at too high a temperature? The recipe that estimated 90 seconds of stick-blending also recommended combining the two mixtures at 120 degrees F. so that didn't seem to make sense - however the book I read said that lower temps would take longer to reach trace, thus making timing a little looser, which I prefer. Oh well, too late to do anything about this batch, so make a note to try a few tweaks to the next one (if this batch doesn't turn out awesome - which it may. I mean, miracles happen right? RIGHT?!)

I wrapped my molded soap in a towel and tucked it into a cupboard and now I just have to wait. I'll un-mold it tomorrow evening (if it is hard enough - but hopefully not so hard it crumbles) and cut it and take pictures to show you.

Don't worry - I only test out new products on family members. I won't list any for sale in my shop until I'm totally awesome at it. Should I start accepting bets now on how many batches that will take?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Atypical First Day of School Photo

So, my oldest son suffers from pretty bad anxiety. Bad enough that even though we are not the sort of parents to rush our kids to psychiatrists and doctors at every little thing they do that is out of the ordinary, we felt his anxiety levels were enough above normal to warrant medical intervention.

So he's on meds, and he's in therapy, and we are constantly working on ways to help him cope. Some days are great, some days are ok, and some days are really really hard. However, even in some of those really really hard days we can still find moments of humor, laughter and joy.

For instance, the first day of school. Every kid is a little nervous, right? Even the most excited ones probably still have at least a twinge of anxious anticipation pinging around inside of them. Isaac, on the other hand, takes that to a whole new level.

Witness his first day of school photo:

Now, this is not your typical standing by the bus or front door with a wide grin on your face first day of school photo, is it?

Despite the evidence above, he actually did get on the bus (after a lot of coaxing) and when I got a call after lunch-time from the school nurse informing me he had a tummy ache and wanted to come home, I was able to convince him to stay, and he made it the rest of the day.

However, in moments like the one above, I've found it invaluable as a stressed-out parent to find the humor in the situation. Ok, sometimes the humor doesn't strike you until later and some of the moments we've been through with him are bad enough that there just isn't any humor to be found. But God truly blessed us with our son, despite the challenges He included, and Isaac does bring so many moments of laughter into our lives.

So when I saw what he was doing, I grabbed my camera. *CLICK* There we have it - our son's first day of 2nd Grade, yay!

Note: after we convinced him to leave the house (but before we had to bribe him onto the bus) I did manage to get this shot, more closely resembling the typical First Day of School photo - albeit the smile is heavily infused with nervous grimace.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Yellow and Navy Treasury

I enjoy making treasury lists on Etsy. It is a fun challenge for myself stylistically. I love getting to roam through so many fun shops and items that I otherwise might never have discovered. Plus, it is a real joy knowing that I might be bringing attention to someone's handmade item that they've poured themselves into and maybe even get them a sale, connecting a handmade artisan with an appreciative customer.

So, without further ado, I present my latest treasury list! I used one of my favorite color combinations. I just thing this color pairing is classic and never goes out of style! So click on over and check it out!

Monday, September 5, 2011

If I Were Going Back to School

If I were going back to school, I would want the following Etsy items to make the transition from summer vacation just a little sweeter. :)

Chalk Board School Supplies Bracelet by MySelvegedLife
Vintage Learning Curve Pencil Box by Mmim
Shark Bag Zipper Pencil Case by minnebites
And of course, I wouldn't want to forget a gift to my teacher! Never hurts, right? :) 

Peppermint Foot Cream by RightAsRainCreations
Any teacher would welcome some of my peppermint foot cream after a long day of standing. The cream nourishes, the peppermint soothes and cools. Remember kids: A teacher with happy feet is a happy teacher indeed! (and maybe she'll go lighter on the homework as a result)

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Baby Started Preschool!

I'm not really a very sentimental person. Not really. I haven't saved all my kids' baby teeth. I think the "souvenirs" from their infancy could fit in a small storage tote each - a couple outfits, a special stuffed toy, the hospital paperwork, and maybe a fun bib or rattle or something. I figure most of what I want to remember, I can revisit through pictures without having to store a bunch of stuff.

I don't really mourn each phase my children pass through, and to be honest, I spent all summer looking forward to when school was starting again. Ok, so mostly this was because my kids are at that constant bickering/name-calling/tattle-telling phase and I'm going insane (please, please tell me they outgrow this? Or at least get more adept at it so my involvement isn't needed? ha!) To put it mildly, I'm just not sentimental about a lot of things.

However, it kind of hit me that my very last baby, our youngest, our only daughter... is growing up. It isn't a sudden revelation, truthfully. She's always been eager to keep up with her brothers and has been eschewing anything "baby" since before she turned two. Somehow, though, this step smacked me in the face a bit.

Not that she cares. Look at her:

This is the face of excitement, folks. This is the look of months' worth of anticipation! She just did not understand my need to cuddle her and hug her and kiss her and take a bazillion photos of her this morning. She just wanted to leave already! (Note: she did cry for about two minutes after Daddy left, not realizing somehow that he wasn't going to be staying there and playing with her the entire time.)

See that sparkle in her eyes? No? Well, she is making "camera smile" face here, hahaha. The sparkle is there, trust me, and it was even sparklier when I picked her up three hours later. She spent the entire 10 minute drive home filling my ears with all the fabulous things she got to do: play with playdough! Play with her friend from Church! Hear a story about pirates stealing beans from Grandma! Eat a snack!

So, goodbye baby and hello school girl. Mama loves you the same. No, that's not true - Mama loves you even more!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are You Ready for Halloween? Well, My Son Is!

School doesn't start until next week, yet my oldest is more interested in Halloween being only 2 months away (LESS THAN TWO MONTHS NOW, as it is September 1st as I am writing this) than he is about starting 2nd grade next week.

Seriously, two weeks ago he was in the garage pulling down our Halloween decorations (I think we have five) and painstakingly placing them around the play space. I thought he was playing with Legos. Silly me.

So when a friend of mine posted a link on Twitter to one of her awesome sculptures and it happened to be a pumpkin version of Munch's "The Scream" I just had to make a Halloween treasury. I knew Isaac would flip for it.

Allow me to share it with you. You might find that Halloween decoration you never knew you always have needed! Plus, with stuff that you buy via mail, it is always safer to buy early (in fact, three items in this list have already sold, so better not hesitate!)

... and let's not talk about how this is my first post in 2011, shall we? Thank you. (Hopefully I'll post more often, but let's face it. I've made that promise before!)