Thursday, August 11, 2011

Busy hands

I'm really on an earring kick - just can't seem to stop making them.

The coffee table in our living room is a mess ... covered with little boxes and baggies of beads of all colors and sizes and shapes, plus I just got an order in today from Fire Mountain.

These moon and star beads are from the order and I couldn't seem to stop myself from making them right away...

This pair of leaf earrings have been lying on the table for a few days - in that I had picked out the beads and just needed to put them together..

Some more of the star beads I got in the mail today.. The large one is Rhodochrosite, the medium one is mother-of-pearl and the tiny one is hematite.

And finally, as the temperatures drop and the calendar shows the year slipping by, thoughts of fall seem to "fall" into our minds...

Soon it'll be cool enough to actually light the torch in total comfort!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

While I'm at it...

I don't believe I ever posted my "Wishing Vessels" here. I know I posted them on Facebook, but this is the proper place. Well, actually, my (sadly neglected) web page would be the correct place.Each of these particular wishing vessels has a heart carved from unakite. Click here if you would like to know mofre about the metaphysical properties of unakite.
All the wishing vessels have at least one spiral and usually a trail of hearts somewhere on its surface.
At this time, I have been making all the wishing vessels in the same color combination. I like the earthiness of these colors.

Eventually, I will probably make some in other combinations.

Since, of course, I have not put these on my website yet, I will tell you now that if you are interested in purchasing one of these vessels, they are $35 each and if you send me a note, we can work something out.

Earrings on a rainy day

Even though I was suffering a bout of lethargy yesterday, at least I managed to make a couple more pairs of the "leaf" earrings:
Jade & PearlsTurquoise & Opals

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leafing out!

We went out to Boulder, CO last week to visit our son who is interning there for the summer with a software firm. It was a beautiful and we did quite a bit of walking. One afternoon, my husband and I sought out a bead shop just off Pearl Street and I found some nice beads to add to my arsenal.

I'm always on the look out for new colors or types of leaf beads for the wired earrings I can't seem to make enough of... I was pretty excited to find these green "milk glass"(?) leaves. They looked like something from the 40's and when I got them home, I couldn't decide what to put with them, but I happened to see some of my favorite peach seed beads and it all came together!
The other leaves I picked up there were a golden green color. It doesn't show up very well in the photograph, but adding golden beads, a gold-green crystal and a gold pearl made a really gorgeous combination.
Finally, I've had these red leaves for some time, but was stuck with exactly how to use them. Again, as I was pawing through my seed beads, the "right" ecru color popped out at me and the garnet colored crystal pulled it all together!
For now, I'm just posting these on my blog, but I spoke with my son about my website and he is planning something for me so that I will be able to update it much more quickly and easily and I will be able to update it and make everything available for sale. I will say though that these leaf earrings sell for $20 each and priority shipping adds about another $5, so if you are interested in purchasing a pair, please just shoot me an email at mschwa @ gmaildotcom (remove spaces and change dot to . ) and we can arrange it!

If you'd like to see more designs/color combinations of this type of earring, I posted some a year or so ago here on my blog.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Bridge Stories

Today, I found it necessary to cross the Susquehanna River twice.

On the way west, I took the "new" bridge, the Wright's Ferry Bridge on Rt.30. I guess it isn't really new, since it was finished in 1972. It seems there are always troubles on the bridge. People jump off it, cars and trucks wreck on it and traffic is stopped. It always seems clean - and bright and shiny - and impersonal. It seems to always be undergoing some construction....

Because of construction, I decided to use an older bridge when I came home and got thinking. As a child and as a teenager, the old bridge - the one we called "Poppy's Bridge" was the one we used:
We called it Poppy's Bridge because our grandfather was employed in building it. He was a carpenter and I guess he helped to build the forms. It was completed in 1930. We always heard the tales of the people who were killed during the building - falling into the large concrete "footers." I'm sure that isn't the right word, but you get the idea.

As I crossed the bridge, I really looked at it for a change. This was part of the first transcontinental highway - The Old Lincoln Highway. At the top of each decorative pier it has with what looks like a Greek key design in it... The new bridge is much wider and roomy, but it doesn't have touches like that - nor does it have a pedestrian walkway. Back in the day, people used to actually walk across the river between the two towns of Columbia and Wrightsville.

Speaking of which... I also thought about the tales our grandmother used to tell about going to visit her oldest sister.
Mimi, our grandmother, was the youngest of 17, born and raised in Columbia, PA. Her oldest sister, Esther, lived in Wrightsville. Mimi talked about how she would walk across the old railroad bridge, listening all the while for a train. If one should come along while they were crossing, she and any companion would cling to the sides of the bridge until the train passed... It always sounded terrifying. Although - I was just reading about the old bridge and it seems that the few cars that wanted to use the bridge would wait until the trains passed and then use the same bridge... Sounds like a rough ride!

There had previously been two record breaking long covered bridges over the Susquehanna, but the first one had been destroyed by ice, high water and severe weather on February 5, 1832.

The second covered bridge shown here...
was famously burnt to prevent the advancement of Confederate troops across the river.

I think in there somewhere was another covered railroad bridge, but these are the ones I have heard about over the years. Funny the things that will occur to you just driving over a bridge.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Soap Demo at Day Camp!

I got a call last week wondering if Tina and I would do a soap making demo for a day camp at the Hans Herr House in Willow Street.

I agreed, but told her we would only allow the children to make melt and pour soap, while we would make soap "the old-fashioned way" for them.

Well, over the weekend, Tina injured herself (majorly sprained ankle) so that I went on my own into this great unknown!

I thought of taking an apron along at the very least just to fit in, but decided to just go in jeans. Little did I know that part of the camp was that the children would be dressed in period costumes.
It was a new situation for me because we are were usually the ones who are in costume while we speak to people dressed in every day clothes.

The children were very well behaved and seemed to be pretty interested in what I was doing. Some of them even knew that soap was made from fats!

The best part was when I ladled out little containers of melt and pour soap for them to scent and add colorant and filler to. I explained that they were only to stir until everything was well incorporated, but they stirred and stirred until they had basically whipped the melt and pour into some sort of crystalline look!

They had listened so well while I made cold process soap, maybe they thought I was expecting them to bring it to trace...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

3's the Charm

In an effort to avoid working on a project for the class Tina and I are taking, I thought I would put some thoughts down on paper (okay, screen!) and finally get a blog post up here.

One day, over three years ago, while out on soap deliveries, we stopped by the offices of a local farm/garden shop/grower supply company to pick up some supplies for my husband. We looked around and thought maybe they would be interested in selling our soaps there and through a convoluted series of events, were invited to participate, as vendors, in their fall "customer appreciation" show...
The first year, we got a few orders and one or two reorders... hardly anything to write home about.

The second year, we seemed to have about the same amount of orders at the show and a few more reorders.

Last year, we really seemed to be busy at the show and knew a lot of the people who came through. We had, maybe twice the amount of orders as the first and second years and are seeing an amazing amount of repeat orders. We have picked up some nice local places and a couple of more remote customers.

We often hear the adage that in advertising, one should always put the same ad in the same place for at least 3 times (for instance 3 issues for a magazine) before gauging the effectiveness of the ad. This little adventure seems to bear that out. After exhibiting 3 years, we have become "real" to the customers and they have apparently begun to trust us!

It has certainly brought to mind that old adage and seems to ring true. Certainly gives me something to think about when I plan any kind of advertising campaign.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Planting ahead for Christmas!

In a Facebook status update on Wednesday, I mentioned that we were planting baby Christmas trees. An interesting conversation ensued and so, I thought it would be fun to give a more complete explanation - complete with visual props. On Thursday, St.Patrick's Day, the normal day for planting potatoes and onions, we were planting more trees and Tina & I took some pictures and a little video of the process.

Bob orders the plants and they arrive, bare root, in boxes bound in ten plant bundles.

We count enough for a row and cut the cord that binds the bundles.
We pack them on the red shelf of the planter. This is the planter. I sit on the seat that you see in the lower left of the picture. The two metal parts that are to the right of the seat form wat we call the "shoe." It plows through the earth and I put the plants in the front of the shoe and hold on to them until the earth fills in behind them.
This is our fancy "measuring device" that trails behind the planter. When the roll of duct tape gets to the last plant planted, it's time to stick the next plant in.
For this job, I wear a "very attractive" outfit. I tuck my jeans into my socks to try to keep the dirt out of my shoes and socks. We call this picture "jazz hands" because I'm showing off the pair of Bob's gloves that I am wearing.
Bob drives the loaded tractor up to the field and checks to make sure the rows will be right.
I climb on board and we are off.
Tina took this lovely movie of us in action and she enjoyed making some commentary.
video

The final result is rows of these:
In 5-7 years, this tree will be a beautiful Douglas Fir Christmas tree!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ready for Spring

Around here, at Lancaster County Soapworks, we often have a month or two to breathe and prepare for the onslaught of heavy duty business in the Spring. Many of our local customers are seasonal and while they may restock a bit after Christmas, our springtime orders tend to hit us hard.

We don't come to a standstill in the beginning of the year, but we do prepare for the busy months to come. One of the things we did this year that was a little different was to order larger quantities of raw materials farther ahead than usual. Because we heard rumblings of price increases (we should be used to this by now) we decided to order enough fats and lye to hopefully hold us over til the end of summer when, we understand, prices should drop - at least for the fats.

The truck arrived last week and we stashed the fats in the garage bay beside the shop. It is cool and shady in there in the summer and they should be fine. Here are a couple of shots of what I'm talking about:

And another view:
We have a pallet of lye at a guaranteed price coming in the end of March.

It is a good feeling knowing we are well stocked and ready to ride out the price changes of the coming months. Some people get a kick out of having shelves of canned goods in the basement. For me, it is the thrill of having fats ready for the next few months. Who knows what to expect when we next need to order.

While we were in some relative "down time," we were busy stocking the shelves. In the beginning of March these shelves were mostly full, but as the month went on and orders started rolling in, they are starting to look a little peaked, so we'll be making soap again to try to stay ahead of the demand.

So, here we go on our roller coaster ride through the busy season... Wheeee!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

NYC and back

If you read my sister's blog, you've already had a good review of our trip last week to NYC.

We made a quick decision to leave on Monday (between storms) and return on Friday (between storms) for a longer stay than we had enjoyed before. The dates turned out to be just about perfect and we got to really experience the city in a bit more leisurely manner than that to which we are normally accustomed.

Although it surely was not "walking weather" and we spent most of our travel time in shuttle buses and an occasional cab, we did get out a couple of times to walk a block or two in each direction. The icy winds blowing down the canyons proved to us that we are not like the hardy folks who live there and walk to work or take their tiny babies, wrapped like mummies, out in well insulated carriages to get some air.

I suppose it was because of the big snows that fell in the city in the last month, but there was garbage piled all along the street - on top of or part of the piles of snow. As the week progressed, it seemed that the garbage collectors must have stopped every day to try to get at whatever new "treasures" became available because bit by bit the piles began to disappear. The only picture I took was 3 Christmas trees piled together against a post. Unfortunately, the picture was a blurry mess and I fear it would hurt your eyes to see. Living on a Christmas tree farm, though where trees seem to be part of our relatively distant past, seeing 3 still green trees on the street in NYC in the beginning of February was an interesting sight.

Every time we go to the city, I am always fascinated by the juxtaposition of the soaring skyscrapers against the remainders of an early, growing city. This church is on 57th St. We often see it when we are there and it is a prime example of this phenomenon.

We got home in the dark on Friday evening and remarked on the lights shining across yards full of snow covered by a thick sheen of ice. When I woke up on Saturday morning after yet another ice storm, I looked out to see limbs down on our front yard.

They had fallen from the big wild cherry tree right outside our front door. There were many more evergreen boughs down around the house, although I couldn't get to them to photograph. Branches appear to be down all over the area, so we are lucky our power never went out.
This Rhododendron seems to always wind up encased in ice at one point of the winter. It is right at the corner where two roofs converge and gets the lion's share of the water melting off the roof! I always think it is interesting - and hardy - because it will still be one of the first flowering shrubs to bloom in the spring!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Goddess Vessels

You might remember the goddess beads and necklaces I made a year or two ago.

I recently sent the only goddess vessel I made at that time to a friend who has a picture of that goddess form on her website. She asked me to make some more for her to sell, so yesterday, I lit the torch and played with the idea.These are the result. I'm pretty pleased with them and think they will only get better. They will be wire wrapped and corked and will be perfect for holding small amounts of oils or any other thing that has special significance to the owner - a bit of sand or earth from a perfect vacation for example.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Tussled with the camera and ...

After my little diatribe this morning, I tried once again to recharge the batteries for the camera. I have no idea what had happened, but two of them charged immediately. I put them in the camera (along with the two from my mouse!) and finally got some pictures.

So - tada!
First, a vessel.
Then, what I would loosely call a set. Probably the two smallest beads on the top left would make a nice pair of earrings and the other beads were all done using various combinations of techniques... And then, the last bead I made, a long (about 40 mm,) skinny bead that, I think, I added the best of everything to - and of course, I wrapped it in fine silver wire and got the silver beads embedded in it in a spiral pattern... I really love it.
Hope you do too!Not a bad way to start the year.

By the way, the other two batteries recharged, I got the use of my mouse back and the camera still appears to work!

Rechargeable Batteries - Grrrr!

A few months ago, I decided it was time to stop buying (and disposing of) all those expensive batteries I use for my cameras, mouse and toothbrush! I bought enough to be able to cycle them through the various appliances and have a few spares to recharge in my new nifty little charger. Brilliant, right?

I bought them at various times, so some were Duracell and some were Energizer. I felt so noble about having done something not only thrifty, but ecologically sound.

So, I made some beads yesterday. I cleaned them this AM and had them all ready to photograph.

I recharged my batteries over the weekend and had brought them along out to the shop, put them in the camera and was ready to go. Turned the camera on and "Batteries Exhausted" appeared on the screen. What???

I took the batteries out of my mouse and substituted them for two of the camera batteries - still got the batteries exhausted message. Bummer!

Maybe it's the camera. Maybe it's the batteries. Maybe it's that adorable collapsible charger.

I will get to the bottom of this, but it is super annoying. I guess I'll go get my "traveling" camera out of the car. Those batteries have probably discharged because of the cold!

This little episode stopped me in my tracks... I had a lot of plans for today and I just had to rant to someone about it. Now maybe I can get over this and back on track.

I WILL be back later with pix.