Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer Vacay 2011 Part One

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Another summer has come to an end. Labor day weekend is upon us and soon school begins. As I write this I am in Clearwater Beach, Florida on my annual vacation with my son and mom. This vacation is one to write about and one for the memory books.


Our journey began on Amtrak from NYC to Tampa. Oh wait, we actually never made it to Tampa because of an earthquake that happened in Virginia so our train, 3 hours delayed, deployed us in Orlando. Amtrak was kind enough to bus us from Orlando to Tampa where my rental car was awaiting us. A 24 hour journey that took about 32 hours and one to never be repeated again. A sigh of relief once we are in the rental on our 45 minute car ride to the hotel. Hurricane Irene must still have had some wind in her because I had to drive through some rain that actually scared the jahibbies (I am not sure that is a word) out of me. I could barely see with the windsheild wipers going a thousand miles a minute. Just like typical Florida weather, soon the sun appears through the clouds, another great relief for me to see.

Each and everyday we went out somewhere, had some pool time, watched the sunset. I really was in a good mind frame to relax and enjoy my time. Here is one of the sunset pictures I took. I was so amazed by the beauty and warmth of the sun in the clouds.

The best time I had was when I took my son and mom to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. This aquarium is none like no other. It is a Rescue, Rehab, Release aquarium and they currently have 2 wonderful dolphins in their facility. Panama is a 35-40 yr old female dolphin rescued about 12 years ago. She is beautiful and sweet. She is also deaf. It was amazing watching the trainers communicate with her and watching her interact with Winter.

Panama showing off how cute she is.
As I mentioned there is also Winter. Winter is younger than Panama and the star of a new movie that is hitting theatres this September. Winter is a dolphin who was rescued after she was found trapped in a crab trap and wrapped all up in the wires and rope. The whole movie was filmed at the aquarium and the trainers, volunteers and staff worked hard to prepare Winter for her acting debut. Wait, I forgot to mention what also makes Winter so special. She didn't have a tail fin and so she was fitted with a prosthetic and gets physical therapy everyday. I was so touched by the special relationship she has with her trainer/physical therapist. It was so sweet watching them interact and my strings were pulled in all directions. I am excited to see the movie when it hits the theatres and will continue to donate money to the aquarium. My son actually donated his own $5.00 to the donation box. Of course in good fashion, he spent more of my money on a Winter stuffed animal and notebook with pen. His logic was that it was all for Winter..How could I refuse?
Winter getting her prosthetic fin put on for her therapy.

Winter getting her treats for a great job!

Winter and Panama with their therapist.


What charitable organizations are you passionate about?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Soapy Travels to Massachusetts 2011

On our way via NYS I-87
I am always up for some adventures and what better way to do that by visiting other soapers? I know I know, I have a new obsession. I can't visit anywhere anymore without having to find or visit soapy friends. Is that bad or do I need an intervention?
This trip was going to take me all the way from Northampton to Boston to Salem,  all in of 2 days. I really did have a mission for this trip. First and foresmost, I wanted to finally meet Sheri from Paradise City Herbal. Sheri and I met via social media and I have fallen in love with her herbal living. She and her husband have an amazing Herban Micro Farm. Earlier this summer Sheri contacted me to see if I would be interested in producing her base soap for her on an as needed basis. I was honored because I love Sheri's products and it is super easy to send her 4# logs whenever she needs it. Here is Sheri and I at a local coffee shop. I didn't realize she was so tall, or is it that I am that short?
After visiting Northampton and beautiful Ms. Sheri, we drove over to Boston to have dinner with my gals! I am always excited to see Rose from Brooklyn Bath, Marla from Back Porch Soap and I met Heather a student of Marla's who was an absolute pleasure. We had a fantastic dinner, conversation and of course laughs! We are a silly bunch and find humor in everything. Here is a picture of us after our bellies were filled with some good food.
Next stop was a quick stop at a hotel in Malden MA for some rest before heading off to Salem in the morning. Needless to say as we were pulling up into the hotel parking, we were greated by the crew that likes to blow kisses and grab crotches. Coming from NY I knew this wasn't good. It was 9:30 at night and we were exhausted. I figured let's make the best of this and leave first thing in the morning. Oh another sign that it wasn't a good spot was the hotel check in person was behind plexi glass. Yeah, I would have been better off sleeping in the car! First thing in the morning we were off to Salem to see Lisa from Wunder Budder. We met at the Front Street Coffeehouse and the coffee was great! Lisa and I didn't meet for too long because the rain was coming down hard and we had a 4 hour drive back home. However, next time I will stop again in Salem and tour this quaint little town.

Glad you enjoyed my adventures. What kind of soapy adventures do you like to get into?

XOXO
Melissa

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bubbles and Blazes Central NY Soap Gathering

CNY 2011 Official Picture
Yes you heard me correctly when I said there is a Central NY Soap Gathering. Soapmakers are an amazing bunch of men and woman and we LOVE to get together. The planning took a few months with woman like Beth, Cheryl, Karen and Maria (I hope I didn't leave anyone out) who dedicated time and hours to planning the venue, garage sale, food, product swap, yankee swap and FUN!
Cars parked in Maria's driveway
Wonderful hostess Marria from Soap Studio Brookside

Many traveled in from all parts of NY - Long Island, NYC, Cortland, Rochester, to name a few. Some traveled in from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. What an amazing group of women and men and all levels of expertise. The day started with the garage sale, which is probably the most deadliest activity ever. Here we are trying to sell things that we don't need but yet we turn around and buy what others are selling. Needless to say the idea of having a pretty empty car trunk was just wishful thinking. I think, I actually had just as much stuff going back home. I was able to pick up some wonderful lavender buds from Cheryl and some Chamomile flowers.

The day proceeded with a column swirl demonstration by Maria and Cheryl and a whipped cream soap demonstration by La Shonda. For me this is the best part, seeing how other techinques are done and feeling confident that I can do it too when I get home. In between all of the planned activities, there were lots of talking, giggling, and sharing stories.
La Shonda making whipped soap
Maria and Cherly preparing the column swirl demonstration
Soapers are a wonderful group of people. There is an array of talent and expertise in the room and the commonality of our passion is evident. However when it came to lunch, it was clear there was also another source of expertise. Everyone brought something to eat and the food was amazing! The picture here doesn't really give it justice but you get an idea how beautiful the spread was.

The day ended just as quick as it began. It was so sad to say goodbye but we all left with new friendships and my heart was beating a soapy beat. On the long ride home from Binghamton I reflected on how lucky I was to be at this event and how lucky I am to have found a passion.
Goodies to take home

Monday, August 15, 2011

Teaching Spotlight: York College CUNY

On July 16, 2011 I awoke to excitment that I would be introducing 7 eager students to the world of soap making..cold process soapming that is! I had my bags with all the stuff I needed ready and packed by the door. My friend Greg offered to help me by driving me and take photos for me. Although I thanked Greg a thousand times, here is one thousand and one..THANK YOU!

Seven students, three hours and  sixty four pounds of soap I was exhausted but had loads of fun. The students ranged from a veteran melt and pour soapmaker, the curious, the naturalist and the excited.

The students were introduced to the world of sodium hydroxide and how this very important ingredient is what makes soap when introduced to oils and butters. They geared up in their protective gear and were ready to get to work.

Suniel from Sri Lanka.
Here is Suniel from Sri Lanka who was visiting NY with his wife. He saw the course offerings from York College CUNY and signed up right away. He stated he was interested in opening up a warehouse in Sri Lanka and that he would stay in touch with me. He sure has and his questions are wonderful. It is exciting to be an inspiration to him and many others.

The class started with a little fear but half way through, they were excited to see the final product and to begin their soaping journey. It was loads of fun and subsequently have been in regular contact with a few of the students.

I will be back at York College CUNY in October conducting a holiday soap making class. It is time to get yourselves ready for the upcoming holiday season.

What kind of class have you taken that you really enjoyed?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

30th Avenue..Astoria, NY

Nestled in the Thomas M. Quinn and Sons, Inc building lies the Astoria Historical Society. In all my years of living in Astoria, I never stepped foot in this amazing place.  In June I had the honor of attending an event featuring local blogger Annabel Short. The name may sound familiar because on May 8, 2011 Annabel did a writeup about me and my life in Astoria but most importantly as a small business owner in Astoria. You can click here to read the write up, which was featured on May 22, 2011.

Annabel had requested that I speak for a few minutes about being a lifelong resident of Astoria. I chuckled because I am only 38 so I guess that does make me a lifer?! At first I had no clue what I was going to say but after hearing the others speak I knew what I would share. I speak in front of people for a living but boy was I nervous. I talked about how my beginnings started to far away on 36-11 Steinway St, how I lived in Queensbridge Housing, then moved over to 25th Road, 14th St, attended St John's Prep HS and how I have been on 30th Ave for about 20 years now. I talked about why this feels like a community and how I am proud to be raising my son here. However I was also honest and real to say that my community is starting to feel like someone else's community because all the mom and pop shops are gone, the rent is getting to high and I am feeling the pinch. I also mentioned my business, Naturally Good Soaps, LLC and how I felt that this was a true 30th Ave business. I am not coming in from another part of the city setting up shop because it is now the place to be. I talked about how I run my business at night when my son is asleep and I hope to one day own commercial property here and employ a few locals. I talked about how I see my business as a true mom and pop shop but hope that I can afford to do so.

Overall it was wonderful and exciting and I was honored to be a part of this great exhibit.

Have you visited your Historical Society today?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pleasant Valley Lavender Farm: Morganville, NJ


  videoToday 2 of my Soapy Pals, Donna from Ekoaromas and Eva from Soapistication and Gnosis Body Care went on a day trip to Pleasant Valley Lavender Farm located in Morganville, NJ. Eva and I were traveling in from Astoria, NY and it took us no longer than 1 hour and 15 mns. Of course these 2 city girls missed the right hand turn we needed to make and then of course we found our way and again missed the farm which was on the left hand side. We just laughed and realized GPS is so important for moments like this!! Donna was already there awaiting us and luckily didn't have to wait too long.

We were so happy to be out of NYC and enjoy NJ air, lavender all around us, 10 acres of greenery and great people. Ellen and her husband were gracious and hospitable. Their daughter made amazing sugar lavender cookies which were sooooo gooodddd!!! We also had a great lavender infused lemonade and lavender infused butter with bread.
We cut lavender and bought some soap, and received samplings of their soap and culinary lavender. We sat for about 2 hours on the tables and chairs just talking and relaxing. It was a perfect day and a great opportunity for us to build our friendship.

We look forward to going back!

XOXO
Melissa

Monday, June 13, 2011

Third Root Community Health Center - Herbal Foundation Level 1

As many of you know, I have been throwing myself into the wonderful world of herbs and their medicinal properties. For about 2 years, I have read books, followed Susan Weed, took a course with Robin Rose Bennett, watch John Gallagher from learnherbs.com and thought about actually going to school for Herbal Studies. A friend of mine, who I refer to as my "Green Sista" introduced me to Third Root located in Brooklyn, NY. I decided to make the investment in taking the level 1 foundation course. It was a long 12 weeks and there were times where I wanted to give up. To be honest, my frustration was more due to the mass transit system in NYC being so wacky on the weekends, that traveling from Queens to Brooklyn on train would sometimes take 2 hours. I am glad to say I stuck it through!! It was a wonderful experience and like many of my classmates want to take this year to absorb the 30 herbs we studied, learn more about them, and grow. We will be back for Level 2, hopefully next Spring 2012.

I will share that we had to do presentations on whatever we wanted. I decided to do Skin and Herbs and my little paper and presentation left me feeling good but I felt better when both of my teachers stated that I am doing Level 3 work! Woo Hoo!! Holy Cannoli, was I surprised by that! I am truly humbled and grateful to them.

(I will post a pic of my certificate later on today)

XOXO
Melissa

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

HSMG Soap Conference 2011

                                     
Good Afternoon, I am reporting live, from my desk, from NYC!!!
Ok, ok, ok, I know. What I should be saying is, "I am tweeting, facebooking and blogging LIVE FROM MIAMI!!". As you probably know, I didn't make it to the 14th annual HSMG Soap Conference that is being held at the Hilton Downtown Miami hotel. For the record I will say that I am kicking myself in the butt with Rose from Brooklyn Bath, LaVida from LaVida Given by Nature and Rochell from Karess Krafters. We are acting cool about it but deep down, we are kicking and screaming like 2 year olds because we are excited for our fellow soapmakers who are having a blast.
I have a direct drip line via my tweetdeck desk application and my heart is racing as the pictures, updates and happiness I am reading.

So in about a year from now, we will be at the 15th Annual Conference and the rumor is it will be held in the Pacific Northwest. As an East Coast girl, I needed to google Pacific Northwest and saw that it encompasses Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. I am hoping it is in Washington St or Oregon. I actually love the state of Oregon and am itching to go back. I plan to save after the summer is over so I can attend. Wow, next year is going to be a great year for me! I am turning 40 (yes you heard me), I am treating myself to a trip to Tuscany and going to the Soap Conference! What is better than that??

Follow the tweets by using the hashtag #soapconf11.

So who is coming with me to HSMG Soap Conference 2012?

XOXO
Melissa

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why I Love Making Soap

I began learning about soap and aromatherapy in 2003. I wanted to begin making products for myself and family and I wanted to do it naturally. I thought that if I was going to convert to locally grown and organic foods, then I need to also take care of my skin using the same holistic ingredients. I fell in love with the fact that I can use everyday items to enhance my skin. Believe me when I tell you that this quickly became an obession;  a good obessesion of course. The more you learn and read about all the chemicals that go into making a product that we put on our skin everyday, it becomes scary.

What I love most about making soap and bath and body products is the amazing group of people you meet along your journey. I have friends all over the United States, UK and Australia. We all have a different approach to how our final products look but we all have a common goal; beautiful handmade products.

I really didn't believe that I can have a business, until about 2009. I knew working a full time job and raising a son on my own that I would have to make the time to make this work. There are times where it can be challenging, but the best challenge is succeeding. The little accomplishments I make everyday, from filing to obtain my LLC, to having money to order supplies, to making time to manage the website is all worth it when a customer expresses their love for your product.

Tell me why you love to do what you do?

XOXO
Melissa

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Prospect Park Herb Walk Brooklyn, NY

On a beautiful Saturday on May 7, 2011 I took a herb walk with my fellow classmates from the Third Root Community Center Herbal Foundation Course 1. I was so excited about this because I was able to now but the names to the "faces" of these herbs and also be able to explore Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

All of my senses were on overload. I couldn't get enough of the beauty before me. I really felt like a kid in a candy store and I took pictures of everything. In this last week, I have been looking at trees, shrubs, flowers, plants with a whole new lens. There is a part of me that giggles because I feel like they are jumping out at me screaming, "what's my name?" I know it sounds silly but it is the honest truth. I appreciate their beauty in a different way and I wish I could just identify each and every living green plant. I know in time I will be able too. For now I will appreciate the 15 or so that I already know.

The picture I have here is of Golden Rod (Solidago canadensis). Golden Rod is used to help those with arthritis, bladder stones, diarrhea, indigestion and eczema. They contain anti-inflammatory, astringent and diuretic properties. For more pictures from the herb walk check out my Naturally Good Soaps Facebook Page.

What do you experience when you see green beauty?

XOXO
Melissa

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Herbal Shelf

In the last few months I have become more and more interested in herbs and infusing them in olive oil. I always am in search of a good method of organization without having to spend so much money. I was able to salvage shelves from my office and are using these to store my precious herbs. I was lucky to have collected 9 of these shelves and they are actually scattered throughout my apartment for my books and photos. I love how the herbs look on the shelves and now I can see each and every single herb filled container.

How do you organize your herbs?

XOXO
Melissa

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hello!!

Please forgive me; I know I am the world's worst blogger. I really do have good intentions but just can't seem to sit down long enough to get some great thoughts out of my head. Here is my plan that I am putting into place to keep me in line. Sunday mornings with a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice I am going to blog about the following:
  1. my new herb shelf and herbs that I am falling in love with
  2. reorganization of my soap studio and working space
  3. upcoming classes I will be offering and where I will be teaching
  4. a featured soap tool that I have discovered and can't seem to live without
  5. highlighting my products and their special qualities
I am committed to at least 4 blog posts a month. That shouldn't be too hard right?

What would you like to see me blog about?

XOXO
Melissa

Friday, February 11, 2011

NYC Soapers Swap

On February 27th I, with the help of Erin and Angela, we will be hosting the first NYC Soapers Swap. Erin, owner of  Soapsmiths (Brooklyn) and Angela owner of Alegna (Long Island) and 7 other wonderful soapers are going to meet, network, talk soapy trash, eat, and swap our goodies with one another. We are also receiving donations from some wonderful local suppliers. Garden State Naturals, pictured to the left, have generously donated a whole bunch of samplings of oils and butters. We will post pictures and are on the official count down until the fun begins!

Happy Valentine's Day

In just a few days many people will be celebrating the day of amor in many different ways. I plan on having the best slice of pizza and amazing cupcake with my son. He is great at setting the table and making sure we have all we need for our feast.

Red Valentine Cosmetic Bag
Just in case you still need to get your loved one a gift, check out the custom cosmetic bags I have added to my line. The Pink Valentine cosmetic bag and the Red Valentine cosmetic bag both contain samplings of a few of NGS products. There is a Oatmeal Soap (appx. 2 oz), Unscented Bath Salt (2 oz), Natural Lip Balm (.095 oz) and a Healing Salve (.25 oz). It is a great way to have a custom sewn bag while trying out products from Naturally Good Soaps. Did I mention that there is FREE SHIPPING too!

Pink Valentine Cosmetic Bag




Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year 2011

Wow can you believe it is 2011 already? Where did 2010 go? It seems as I get older the time goes by super fast! I spent 2010 embracing the idea that I am a small business owner and in doing so I worked hard on establishing Naturally Good Soaps. 2011 is going to be the year that I grow and allow for opportunities to take hold of NGS.

Making bath and body products is a wonderful industry to be part of. I have met some wonderful business owners along the way and I wanted to take this time to thank them for their friendship and guidance. I have met many of the following of people via social media. It really is a great way to meet and connect without paying for a plane ticket. Mary from Annie's Goat Hill Soap is a soapmaker from Ohio and I am a fan of her goat milk soap. Mary has a wonderful farm with many goats and boxers. Her goat milk soap is luxurious and beautiful. I thank Mary for her continued support and friendship and her knowledge. Another wonderful person is Rose from Brooklyn Bath.  She has been my partner in crime when it comes to our adventures in NYC. Rose currently resides in Boston but when she comes to NYC to visit family, she always has time for us to seek out events that can help our business' grow. You have to see the many emails we send to one another when we discover new things. Another person who I wanted to give a shout out to is Sheri from Paradise City Herbal. Sheri is an amazing woman with a just as amazing garden she is converting to a micro-farm. Sheri's products have helped me with rosacea and her knowledge and passion have inspired me to embrace and love herbs. Of course there are many, many more people I want to thank and I hope to do so in the near future. 

I also wanted to share some professional connections I have made and these people inspire me each and everyday. I have become a huge fan of Marla from Back Porch Soap. Marla is a wonderful business consultant with a wealth of information. There are very few organizations I would give my hard earned money to but Marla is one that I make sure I save for because she provides one on one consultations that any new business owner could use. Then there is Donna Marie from The Indie Beauty Business Network. Donna Marie provides a wealth of information about the industry and has built an amazing network for members to connect with. It is hard to feel isolated and alone in this industry when the truth is there are many producers of bath and body products from the hobbyist to the manufacturer who all support each other.

My goals for 2011 already have begun and I look forward to providing quality products for you. 

Wishing you a wonderful 2011 and I graciously thank you for making 2010 a wonderful one for 
Naturally Good Soaps