Sleep? What sleep?!

A few weeks ago, we bought a new mattress. Our old mattress cost us a small fortune, and just three years after we bought it, we started having problems with it. Unfortunately, the dealer who sold it to us went out of business, and we never got a response from the manufacturer, so we were a little leary of buying another expensive mattress. So instead, we bought a low priced yet very comfortable mattress, foregoing the box springs this time around. Our box springs are still in excellent condition, so we didn’t see a need to replace them. We waited for a week for the mattress to be delivered.

I wish I had my old mattress back.

This mattress has been terrible. The comfortable mattress we tried out in the store is not what we received when it was delivered two weeks ago. While the model is the same, the feel is vastly different. The day after the mattress was delivered, we went to the dealer and told them we wanted to exchange it because it was so uncomfortable. Our sales lady told us that normally, they want a customer to use the mattress for at least 30 days before exchanging it, but I told her that wasn’t going to happen; I’d gotten a grand total of about two hours’ sleep the night before because this mattress was a ROCK. We tried the mattress in the store again, and again, it was not comparable to what was delivered. They agreed to exchange it after we used it for a week. Last Thursday, we went back and picked out a new mattress, which is supposed to be delivered tomorrow. But the last two weeks have been excruciating. And we’re still not getting any sleep.

So that’s why I haven’t been really active lately. I’m just so far beyond tired, I’m not even sure what I’m doing anymore. The lack of sleep has cut the productivity levels for both of us, and I’m way behind on soap making. And making everything else as well. Over the weekend, I did actually order in some t-shirts for some Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Easter designs. I’m not even sure how many Valentine’s Day shirts I’m going to make this year, because we only have a couple of shows before the holiday. Instead, I might make myself one or two to wear to shows and then concentrate on the St. Patrick’s & Easter shirts. One thing I do know is that I seriously need to get more soap made, and fast!

I’m still working on re-organizing the studio/office and storage room. Today I finally got my Container Store order, and I began working on the storage room. It seems to be somewhat mindless work, which is what I need right now. It will take me a while to get it completely done, but it’s still being worked on, and eventually I’ll be finished.

The other thing I’m working on is a complete rebranding of my entire business venture. I’m combining the embroidery/fabric arts and soap/cosmetic businesses in to one entity, and I’m building an entirely new website, complete with new photos, a vintage/retro feel, and some new products. I am hoping to roll out the rebranded business the first of February, and I’m really very excited about it. I’m using WordPress for my website, so I’m learning a lot as I go along – this is the first website I’ve built that didn’t have some sort of pre-built “plug & play” template that guides me every step of the way. I did buy a skin for it, to give it the look I want, but I’m doing all the work myself. Fortunately, since I’ve used WordPress for my blog for years, using it for my website isn’t completely foreign to me. It feels a bit like a new pair of the comfy shoes you’ve had for years, but now need to get used to the new pair. Keep an ear to the ground to find out more about the relaunch/rebranding!

By the way, are you following me on Instagram? If you’re interested in finding out what I’m doing, head on over there and follow me. I post photos of fabric projects, soaps, embroidery … you know, whatever I happen to be doing that day. Maybe you’ll see me doing something you just can’t live without! 😉

And in closing, I would be totally remiss if I didn’t ask if you’ve signed up for the Soap of the Month Club yet. Each month, you’ll receive a new bar of themed soap. February’s soap has a Valentine’s theme, and I have to say, I can hardly wait for it! I already have March, April and May soaps planned out, and I assure you, they’re going to be super awesome. So don’t forget to sign up. Shipping fees are already included in the price, so if you buy the option that’s less than $50, just choose local pick up. Soaps will go out the first week of every month, and if you sign up now for the first shipment in February, you’ll receive a free gift with your first shipment! And don’t forget, shipping is free when you spend $50 or more in a single order.

Well, that’s pretty much it for now, but like I said, stay tuned; big things are in store for Old Fashion Soap Co., and Jill’s Fabric Arts!

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And so the Soap Club was born

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When I was a kid, the Doubleday Book of the month club was really popular. As an avid reader, I was thrilled when I grew up and was able to join the book of the month club myself. I read many books that I received through that club, and it was magical. I haven’t seen anything about the book of the month club in a while, but it still exists (I had to Google it to be sure) and I bet it’s still magical.

Now that I’m older and more busy, I don’t have as much time to read. Back when I first met Chris, I made a comment about not being able to read as much as I would like, and he told me that he listened to a lot of audio books. And that’s how we now have some 300 or so books on Audible. If you haven’t ever tried Audible, and you love reading, I suggest you try them out. It’s also magical.

These days I subscribe to the Sew Sampler box from Fat Quarter Shop. Now, this is TRULY magical for me, because I never know what’s going to be in the box. I LOVE getting this box every month – there is always some cute fabric of some sort, often a tool, always a pattern or two … it’s one of those things that just makes me happy, every single time I open it. I tried out the Quilty Box, too, and I loved it, but after losing my job last year, I had to cut back to one box, and FQS won out because it was cheaper. To be fair, Quilty Box always had fat quarters, and the box from FQS often has charm packs, but the cost of the box from FQS is half the cost of the Quilty Box, and when you are trying to start a business, that’s important. 😀

A while back, I was thinking about how much I enjoy receiving those boxes from FQS, and how much I loved the book of the month club. I started thinking that it would be super awesome to offer a soap of the month club, and the seed was planted. I thought it would be so cool to make a special soap each month for the box, and as a “featured soap” for the shows that month. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. So I started checking in to ways to set it up. My original idea was to set it up as an ongoing subscription, but my old shopping cart couldn’t do that. For reasons completely unrelated to this idea, I decided to move my website to a new host provider, and thus a new shopping cart and I put the idea aside for a while. But once the website was up and running on the new host, I started thinking about the idea of the soap of the month. Now, this host does have the ability to use plug ins for the shopping cart, but the reality is that for what I want to do, the cost for this particular type of function isn’t feasible. I mean, maybe I’m the only one who likes surprise packages in the mail each month (I doubt that, but you just never know; people can be so ODD! 😉 ). Anyway, earlier this week, I mentioned the idea and my roadblock to Chris, who came up with a surprisingly easy and yet elegant solution.

Chris suggested I set up the club for a certain number of months. So we agreed that three, six, nine and twelve month subscriptions would be good. And then he suggested that I offer the option of receiving one bar of soap or two. If the customer wants two bars of soap each month, one bar will be the soap of the month, and the other soap will be another bar of my choice (for example, In the Air Tonight, Tiny Dancer or some other bar that we have in stock on a regular basis). My plan was to offer a single bar of soap; two never crossed my mind. I thought all of this was brilliant, and so the Soap of the Month Club was born!

The great thing about the Soap of the Month club is that you get a new bar of soap every month – something that no one else has tried, and that we think you’re going to love! And you’ll get it first – the packages will ship the first week of each month. We’re already working on the soap for the first month, which will be February. We’re not going to reveal what it is just yet, but we will give you a hint – February is the month for lovers!

If you sign up for the February soap, you will also receive a free gift with your first month’s shipment!

So head on over to the website now and sign up for the Soap of the Month Club, because you definitely do NOT want to miss out on this!

The Downhill Slide

Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Theoretically, the temperatures start to cool down, kids go back to school, and thoughts start to turn toward the Holiday Season. This year, it really hasn’t cooled down much in the Houston area. Quite to the contrary, I have been calling this the Summer That Never Ends. We’ve had few days where the temps stayed below 70 this Fall, and quite a few days where we got above 80. With weather like that, it can be difficult to get in to the Thanksgiving spirit, let alone Christmas spirit. But I’m doing my best. I’m listening to Christmas music as I work, and I’m thinking of all these great gifts going to people who are going to be surprised to get a custom item this year. 🙂

A couple of weeks ago, Chris and I agreed that we would take Thanksgiving week off. No work, no social media presence. Just time to relax and unwind and enjoy a little bit of “me” time. Ha! Ha hahahahahahahaha. Well, for the most part, we did manage to take the week off. I embroidered a soft sided cooler to take photos for the Etsy shop.

Here, Fishy Fishy!!

Here, Fishy Fishy!!

I also posted it to Etsy (obviously).  And I did a couple of posts about Small Business Saturday and a Black Friday sale we’re having in each of the shops. But for the most part, I tried to put work out of my mind and enjoy the holiday. Well, as much as I ever enjoy a holiday in which I spend at least a full day baking.

Monday, Chris and I took a little drive. We were gone most of the day, and it was so nice to get out of the house and not try to remember which store we need to stop at next, or what we need to be sure to pick up before heading back home. Most of our excursions out of the house the last couple of months have been to the post office to drop off orders that are being shipped out, to pick up some item we need for one of the businesses, or to the grocery store so we don’t starve. But Monday, we just drove aimlessly around South Texas for a bit, and it was magical.

Tuesday, we spent most of the day cleaning. It’s amazing how bad a house can get when three adults live there, but are so busy, they are only doing the minimum needed to keep the house from being condemned by the Health Department. OK, it wasn’t THAT bad, but we really did have to do a fairly deep cleaning. Sadly, we didn’t finish, but we’re still working on it a little at a time each day. Wednesday, I baked. I baked a pumpkin cake, cheesecake, and a couple of pumpkin pies. Oh, and the cornbread for the dressing on Thursday night.

So, after all of that, and driving across town to my folks’ house and seeing family on Thursday, I was looking forward to doing a little sewing on Friday. NOPE! That didn’t happen either. I can’t recall what I did do, but it wasn’t sewing. In fact, now that I think about it, Friday and Saturday are a bit of a blur – I have no recollection of exactly what I did either day. I do know that I was bound and determined to get some sewing done yesterday, but alas, I woke up with a migraine. And thanks to all the medicine I had to take yesterday, that was full of caffeine, I got very little sleep last night. But today, I bounded out of bed and got right to work.

Of course, I wasn’t set up to get started right off this morning, because I was sick yesterday, so it was a bit of a slow start. But I did manage to get this King’s Towel on the machine this morning and get it completed.

The King's Towel

The King’s Towel

I just love this one! I still need to do a little clean up work on it, but tomorrow, it will be headed to Washington state. Washington state! (Note to self: Get a map of the US to keep track of where people are that order items). This one isn’t yet listed on the Etsy shop, but I will be adding it today or tomorrow. I will also be stitching out a Queen’s Towel that is just as cool as this one (but with a better crown LOL) to put up on the Etsy shop. These would make great gifts for those difficult to buy for folks on your holiday shopping list.

And then I had to make another fishy cooler this morning, this time in blue.

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In the soap shop, we have fresh batches of Pride & Joy, In the Air Tonight, Don’t Bring Me Down, and Boys of Summer! We have other great soaps as well, so check those out in the Old Fashion Soap Co. Etsy shop!

We have a lot of great gift ideas in both the Jill’s Fabric Arts and the Old Fashion Soap Co. Etsy shops, so get on over and place your order today to ensure delivery in time for Christmas. 🙂

Trying to carve out time for me

When I worked outside the home, I thought I was busy. It seemed that I could never find enough time to do the things I wanted to do, and that I was always torn away from my favorite past times to do other things – work, mostly. I have come to realize, however, that I wasn’t nearly as busy as I thought I was, and I was, in fact, quite lazy. But to be honest, I’m still a little lazy, even though I’m busier now than I ever have been.

Or am I lazy at all?

I’ve always believed that if I wasn’t being productive, I was being lazy. Sat on the couch all day and watched tv? Lazy. Laid in bed and read a book for three hours? Lazy. Stared into space thinking about lint and aliens and dog fur? DEFINITELY being lazy.

I’ve realized over the last few weeks that it’s not laziness at all; I need that time to recharge my batteries, restart the creative juices, and push forward. OK, maybe it’s just laziness sometimes, but for the most part, I do those things when I have hit that brick wall we hear about so often, when my brain is over loaded and I just can’t deal with things anymore. I have also realized that I didn’t have these problems when my kids were young, because I actively sought out time for myself, and I don’t really do that anymore. You know, when the kids were young, I always thought I’d have more time when they were grown to do the things I want to do, and while that may be true, I’ve become worse at managing my time.

Over the last several months, in fact, I estimate that probably 80-90% of my waking hours are spent either making, thinking or planning something for my business. Another 5-10% of my time has been spent talking to Chris about his business, and the other 10-15% (depending on the day) is spent doing school work for my CPA program. I cannot recall the last time I sat down at the sewing machine just to sew for fun. Sure, I spent some time last month working on the Star Wars quilt, but that was when I was considering selling it at one of my shows. But the more I considered selling handmade fabric art items, the less I wanted to make them. So last week, I made a decision that my fabric art items will not be something I make for shows to sell. I may, from time to time, offer a piece that I’ve made but have no specific plans for, once it’s completed, but for the most part, I am choosing to keep my sewing & quilting activities out of the business. I make probably 10 batches of soap a week; I think that’s sufficient for the time I spend on making things for the business.

I have also decided that I need to set some business hours, because frankly, this “All work, all the time” thing isn’t making me too happy. My mom and Chris have been telling me for months I need to do this, and they’re right. Of course, now Chris has a fledgling business and he’s struggling with this as well. LOL At any rate, my new business hours are from 8 am until 5 pm – just like a regular office job. However, I will not be reachable before 9:30 am, so that I can spend some uninterrupted time on taking care of the books, advertising and other administrative duties. Whether or not I’m reachable until 5 pm will depend on the day, but if you need anything at all, please feel to contact me on Facebook or by email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Obviously, with the nature of the products I make, I’m not always able to stop and chat when someone pings me, but I always respond as soon as I can.

Jill

Blogging failure

Sooooooooooooo much a failure at blogging lately … Not that I need to tell YOU that – you can easily see that I haven’t had a blog post in over a month. Where does the time go?!?

Things are just crazy busy around here; I’m not sitting around enjoying a bunch of free time, that’s for sure! In the last month, we’ve had four shows, all of which were a roaring success, and one attempt at Traders Village, which didn’t go so well. Alright, honestly, it was horrible. But other than that one flop, every show has gone better than the one before. And response to the soaps has been amazing.

Last weekend, we were at the Hempstead Watermelon Festival, and the feedback we got from the people who stopped by the booth was really good. People loved the look and scents of our soaps, and we got some requests and suggestions for new soaps, which we’re working on. One of those is an Oatmeal, Milk & Honey bar.

Oatmeal milk & honey

You can see the little flecks of oatmeal right in the bar! The top layer is colored with cocoa powder. Response has already been very positive, just from the photo.

But the big hit at the Watermelon Festival was our Watermelon Bliss bar, and is there any wonder? Look at how beautiful this bar turned out to be!

Watermelon Bliss

Not only is it beautiful, but it smells like fresh cut watermelon. I have a few of these left, so if you want one, you better order now. Head on over to the website and claim your bar today.

While we were out at the Watermelon Festival, we handed out about 200 free soap samples, and talked to about 500 people about our soaps. Like I said, response was very positive, so we’re hoping to carry that momentum forward.

Our next show will be on September 3rd at the Bellville Market Day. We purposely left a six week window between these two shows for three reasons. One, it’s just too darn hot to be sitting outside for 12 hours a day. Two, I am taking a summer class during this time, and I have to focus a bit on that. And the biggest reason is that I wanted the time to prepare for our fall schedule.

In fact, our fall schedule is so busy, we’re looking at booking two shows on some weekends, and sending a second team to run one of them. For the month of September, our schedule currently looks like this:

September 3rd – Bellville Market Day, Bellville, TX

September 10th – Wait listed for Cypress Women’s Group Shop Till You Drop (if I don’t hear from this one soon, I will be looking for something else to fill this slot)

September 14th – 18th – Applied for the Washington County Fair in Brenham, TX; hoping to hear back early next week

September 24-25th – Applied for the Texas Reds Steak & Grape Festival in Bryan, TX. Should get confirmation next week on this one.

So, if you need some soap, and you want the good stuff, come on out and visit us at any of these shows. Or, head on over to the website at http://www.oldfashionsoapco.com and place your order!