Getting ready for Autumn and Winter

Fall is sort of in the air and I’m making product for upcoming festivals and Christmas sales and Courtyard gardens.  This is the first year in many that Christmas has been on my radar before November, but with a 6 week minimum cure time, I’ve got to be finishing up production by the end of the month.

I will be at Immanuel Lutheran Church for their Fall Festival on October 5th.  Proceeds support local charities.  I’m told organizations that have benefited in the past include Habitat for Humanity and similar.

I will be at the Winter Festival and the Everson Senior Center on December 6th.

I’ll post updates of other markets, festivals and bazaars as I hear about them.


Many Thanks!


On Top of the Fridge






I’ve spent the last couple of weeks producing mass quantities of soap in 2 1/2 pound and 5 pound batches.  Different scents, colors and swirls.  It’s been fun, sometimes frustrating and hectic as I try to get this start up off the ground and keep up with my engineering business, too.  There have been more than a few late nights and some dinners out when the kitchen was overrun with soap and soap making paraphernalia.




I want to take this opportunity to thank my family for their support and patience during these crazy times, though I must say patience is wearing a bit thin as food becomes more sparse.  I’m the primary shopper and I’ve not kept up with that job very well.  So, to Andy and Samantha – Thank you for your feedback on name and logo ideas, for being perpetual product testers, for your understanding and for not moaning too loud when dinner wasn’t done until 8:00 (or later).

With the Everson-Nooksack Summer Festival (formerly Everson Days) fast approaching, I have finished with bar soap production and will be moving on to creme soap and scrubs while the cold process soaps cure.

I’m exited to announce that my products will be available for sale at Courtyard Gardens, our local Everson florist, after the summer festival.  Cheryl has been very encouraging and supportive of my enterprise and she and her husband, BC, have been enthusiastic testers of all my products.  The feedback Cheryl has provided as well as the product packaging and logo advice she offered have been valuable beyond measure.  Thank you Cheryl and BC!

To all the other brave souls who tested soaps and provided feedback – Thank You!  Lesley, Eric, Draughn, Patricia, Karen and Nadine.  Here’s to my mother-in-law, Lynne Stone, who unbeknownst to her was a tester of sorts as well – she was too chicken to volunteer, but I sent her some anyway.  FYI – she assures me she loves them.

Many thanks to my sister, Leigh, who is shipping her old soap molds and my parents, Elwin & Alice McGrew for their feedback and encouragement as well.  I also appreciate the enthusiastic responses from my nieces, Finley and Kieren.  “They smell really good!”  It’s hard to go wrong with hearts, flowers, butterflies and stars where 9 and 6 year old girls are concerned.   DSC04511

And another heartfelt Thank You, to my sister, Lesley, for her constant encouragement, business name and logo feedback/advice and unexpected but very welcome investment.

Oh – did I forget to mention how much I LOVE my soap cutter from Bramble Berry! DSC04496

What’s in a name?

When starting a business, coming up with a name can be a difficult endeavor, but a very important one.

You want your name to reflect you and your product and be cool.  I tend to not want to name my businesses after myself because if it grows and you take on partners or eventually sell it, the business isn’t stuck with your name.  I experienced working for a firm named after the founding members and when those people retired and new partners took their place, there was more than a little petty bickering about it.

The process for me was bandying about ideas with my husband, daughter and friends.  There were so many, I can’t recall them all.  This went on for a couple of weeks or more when one day Greymalkin just popped into my head.  I still have no clue why, but it did and it just felt right.  My husband liked it, the kid liked it, my sister liked it and so did many others.

How does it reflect me?

Me – I’m the crazy cat lady.  I’ve had cats as long as I can remember, and often more than one.  Currently we have 4 who call our house home and 3 feral cats who live in and around our back yard and have meals on our deck.  All neutered, I should add.  I participate in Trap-Neuter-Return and have rescued a number of strays over the past several years.  Cats are one of the constants in my life.

How does it reflect my vision of my product?

My soap – I love the multiple variations and artistry in soap – from the chemistry of the ingredients used to the visual impact of the swirls and other designs.  Soap can be utilitarian, whimsical, comic and/or intricately artistic.  The options are as limitless as one’s imagination.  The Artistry of Chemistry becomes Soapistry.

Once I settled on the name, the logo was next.  I spent hours on it and it went through many iterations before settling on the final design, then there was the time spent tweaking it, getting it just right.  I’m very pleased with the end result and I hope you like it, too.  Greymalkin

Shampoo – or Not

As I stated previously, I was geared up to make my own luxury shampoo at a fraction of the cost of store bought.  Here is my tale.

I had read about shampoo bars and how popular they are becoming, so I looked up  few recipes.  I didn’t want a bar soap, I was interested in liquid soap and thought, “If those ingredients make a great bar soap, they should be good in a liquid.- right?”  I proceeded to gather all the necessary supplies.

This was going to be a challenge.  Otion, my friendly local soap supply store, does not offer liquid soap classes because the process is very time consuming, so I did my research and dove it – at around 3:00 in the afternoon.  Plenty of time, right?  Wrong.

Liquid soap is a hot process and the soap has to cook until it reaches the ‘vaseline’ stage – looks not texture – and while it cooks, it has to be ‘stirred’ regularly.  I use the word stir facetiously.  After bringing the mixture to trace, it becomes very stiff very fast.  Stirring in this case is done with a potato masher.  So, every 30 minutes or so, I mash up this near solid goo, hoping that the next time I check it, it is the obligatory transparent gold I’ve been told to expect.  I was up until 1:00 am.  At his point, additional boiling water is added, then the pot is covered and you wait for the soap to dissolve in the water.  I went to bed.  In retrospect, I probably should have started with a tried and true recipe instead of trying to concoct my own.

Come morning, the soap had not completely dissolved, so I added more boiling water.  Sigh.  Big mistake.  When the soap was eventually completely dissolved, it was very thin.   All the instructions I read told me to be patient.  I wasn’t.

I neutralized the soap per instructions and then proceeded to use in on my hair.  Oh.  My.  God.  I have never used a harsher shampoo.  It stripped all the oil right out of my hair.  It felt like straw and not even my super luxury conditioner could fix it.  On a positive note, it lathered great!  Now, how to fix it.  Without getting to detailed about my process, I’ll just say – I didn’t – fix it that is.  I will tell you that we now have nearly a gallon of very nice liquid hand soap that I will never be able to replicate.

I tried again, with similar results.  This time I didn’t bother trying to fix it and just mixed it in with the first mistake.  Two gallons of hand soap/bubble bath/body wash.  NEXT!

I turned to the vast reaches of the internet for guidance and learned that soap doesn’t really make a great shampoo and despite all the hype, shampoo bars are not beloved of most.  Ah- ha!  So, how does one make shampoo?  Detergent.  Turns out there are some good, naturally derived, biodegradable detergents available for the formulation of a nearly natural shampoo.  (Some companies using these derived detergents advertise All Natural.  They get away with it due to the fact that the term ‘natural’ is not clearly defined and this fuzzy area allows for a lot of fudging.  Or is that fibbing?)  ‘All Natural’ or not, they are environmentally safe, non-toxic and pretty gentle on hair.  I’m going to give it a try some day.

Call Me Crazy

I find myself in an interesting position.  I’m starting a new business.

More than a year ago I started looking into making my own hair gel and other hair care products.  I have semi-curly hair.  Not quite curly, but more than a little wavy and finding products that I liked that I could afford on a regular basis was not so easy.

Another consideration for me is smell.  I’m sensitive to scents.  The chemical scents of most cleaning products, including the ‘green’ selections, can knock me off my feet and trigger a migraine.  Many of the more affordable personal hygiene products are also very heavily scented.  I recall purchasing a ‘light scent’ deodorant one day when my local store was out of the unscented options.  That lightly scented deodorant was overpowering.  If that was light, what did that say about the normal version.

So, I started doing some internet research and set up a small chemist lab in the kitchen.  I can tell you with certainty that my husband has ceased to be amused when I answer his, “What’s for dinner?” with “Lotion”.  Soon after a few experiments – some great, others not so great, I learned that my local soap making supply shop was offering a class called “The Naturally Clean Kitchen”.  I took it and I loved it.

Then I thought, why not take the soap making class and learn to make my own shampoo?  So I did and I was hooked.  I have not achieved my goal of a great home-made shampoo, but we have enough luxury liquid hand soap to last us and eon.  I gave up on the liquid soap and have now focused a great deal of energy on some superb (if I may say so myself) bar soaps.

I knew that making just enough soap for my family and some friends wasn’t going to be enough for me.  There is just too much to try – swirls galore, confetti soap and other techniques that required my attention.  As a result, my family and I are swimming in soap.  Then I thought, “Why not sell it and make my new-found hobby/obsession pay for itself?”

So, here I am, neck deep in business plans, marketing, promoting, making soap and generally having a really good time.

Funny thing is, I’m already self employed and my new business is totally unrelated to my current business – engineering – and the engineering is really cutting into my soaping time right now.

Sigh – I now have 2 jobs and the same boss for each – me.  Here’s to maintaining my sanity.  I’ll keep you updated.