December 12 in 12

December 31, 2017

Well we’ve reached the final month!  It’s been fun to look back over the past twelve months and see a review of the year!  December was a great month. Insanely busy up through Christmas, but then I got to take some time off to spend with family and it was lovely!

December 1, 2017: Christmas Time

I got to put a tree up for the first time in five years. Finally being in my own place with a separate work space has been lovely.  I love my tree and all the decorations I was able to put up this year!

December 3, 1017: Craft Fairs

This was my craziest weekend of the year.  In three days I had 8 shows. 4 which I did and 4 of which I had three other people working for me do.  By the time I got home Sunday I was a zombie :D.

December 5, 2017: Lip Scrubs

After I made it through the weekend I was back at it restocking.  I did pretty good with keeping up with everything this year.  The lip scrubs were really popular this winter season.

December 14, 2017: Test Prep

It’s time to get serious and get my butt in gear with this Master Exam.  I’m a list maker. It helps get me motivated.  When I can cross things off I feel like I’m accomplishing something and it makes me want to do more!  So I started my list of supplied I’d need and what I needed to do to get started on it.

December 15, 2017: Custom Orders

I’ve had a couple of custom soap orders I needed to get caught up on.  So I spent the day working on making those.  One was a custom order for a four color swirl to match a tile patter in someone’s home. I think I did a good job with that! I was pleased with how they came out.

December 17, 2017: Last Show (Part 1)

The last event of the season, a small winter farmers market.  When it was over I did a little happy dance.  I love shows, but they’re exhausting and by the time I get to the end of December I’m exhausted!

December 17, 2017: Old Sturbridge Village (Part 2)

I’m always so busy this time of year I never do anything fun.  One of my favorite places is OSV (a historical village in MA).  They do a program called Christmas by Candlelight and I was like I’m going this year! So, I bought tickets for me and my parents and we had a lovely evening.

December 22, 2017: Test Prep

I went out and bought the binders I needed and printed out all the test requirements and put them all together and I’m ready to start.  There’s a lot of work ahead of me, but it’s all organized and it’s time to start the work!

December 25, 2017: Christmas!

MY entire family was together for Christmas. It was lovely!  This is my and my adorable nephew.  He just melts my heart!

December 26, 2017: New molds!

I’ve started my 2018 goals list already. One thing I knew I wanted to do was change up the molds I use for my bath bombs.  Of course I asked for some of the new molds I wanted for Christmas :D. I’m so excited for these new molds. I absolutely love how the work.

December 27, 2017: Bookkeeping

Started pulling everything out to get all the end of year stuff finalized and ready for my accountant.  Can’t believe year 6 is almost in the books!

December 31, 2017: Total Soap Count

Here you go! The final count on the number of bars of soap I made: 6,723 (the alternate was me counting actually number of soaps made not by the size (full/half/cupcake) bar but just total number made).

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October 12 in 12

November 1, 2017

I’m a day late, but at least I made it!  October is always a busy month.  It’s at about this point that I start to panic every year ha!  It’s the constant wondering do I have enough soap made, how will the new items sell, how will I be able to manage my crazy schedule…you think I’d realize by now that things all work out and not to worry, but no, I still worry and stress!  Anyway here you go, a view at hour October went for me.

October 1: Wax Melts

I wanted some winter scents. That’s what inspired a seasonal line.  I hadn’t been planning on making these that day, but I got an order for some and one of my standard scents I was out of (and didn’t realize).  Once I started restocking the standard one, I was like might as well just go ahead and make the seasonal ones. I’ve got everything out.  So, what would have been an hour project basically turned into an ALL day project.

October 2: Grinch Soaps

There are some soaps I make that I absolutely adore.  I love them. They just speak to me.  This was one of those soaps.  I can’t claim credit for the idea. I saw something similar somewhere and I thought it was cute.  So I came up with my own little twist and created these. Love them.  They just make me smile every time I see them.

October 5: Mini Winter Soaps

I quite often this time of year get asked if I have something small for children.  Little stocking stuffers basically.  So, with that in mind I made these soaps.  I’ll package them in sets of 4 and see how they go over!

October 6: Goodbye PO Box

I finally (officially) moved over my PO box to my new town.  It was the last element of the move I needed to accomplish.  It was a little sad to say goodbye to PO Box 1385, but I’ve now made friends with my new PO Box :D.

October 8: Mica Swirls

The first half of October continued my crazy soap making spree.  I restocked on (almost) all my standard soaps.  Pretty much most of my soap making is now down for the year.  There will be some restocking here and there, but it will be for after show season as it won’t be ready before the end of the season.

October 10: Label Creation

I’ve introduced a number of new soaps and new products this fall/winter season.  It’s meant I’ve had to make a lot of new labels.  I changed up my standard bar label a tad for the Grinch.  I also created new labels for all the other new products.  I had quite a day at the computer.

October 12: Lip Scrubs

Restocking on lip scrubs.  Now that the soaps are all made it’s bath product time.  Much to do (as you’ll see over the next few days).

October 14: Emoji Soaps

Let me start off by saying these are a pain in the backside to make.  It took a lot of experimenting to figure out the best way to make these.  They’re definitely not “perfect” by my standards) but they are cute.  I made these because I was asked by a long time Wholesale client.  I’m going to experience the with another method of filling the faces in the winter…once life slows down.

October 16: Photo Day

All those winter soaps…well they needed to be photographed! (They’re all listed on my webpage too if you’re interested).  I have a prop box.  Anyone else have a prop box?  Pictures can be challenging.  Some days they go great other days I can’t get anything to look right.  Luckily this was a good day. It was a bright but overcast day which is the easiest time to take pictures.  And I was happy with how I arranged the soaps for the photos. Some days I can’t get a composition I like.

October 20: Dryer Balls

My plan was make dryer balls in January and February when it’s slow (since these take time and are so labor intensive) and then not have to worry about it during show season.  I looked at the number I sold last year and then increased what I made but 1/4.  Apparently that wasn’t enough because here I am making another batch of dryer balls…and I have a feeling I’ll be making another round of them in November too. Guess that’s a good problem to have.

October 21: Show Season

Of course the weekends have been filled with shows.  🙂

October 25: Bath Bombs

I decided to redo how I label and package my bath bombs.  It was something I knew I needed to do, but took me a bit to figure out how I wanted to do it.  I love the redesigned labels and the new shrink wrapping. Both the old and the new methods had their advantages and disadvantages, but in the long run I think the new packaging looks much more professional and will hold up to wear and tear and not get “beat up” looking.

There you have it. The highlights of my month.  It’s been a crazy month where I think I’ve worked every single day. This snap shot doesn’t seem to do it justice when I look back over it.  But you got the highlights!  Here’s to next month! (Where I can assure you the craziness will continue).


August 12 in 12

August 31, 2017

E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D!  I’m so tired.  While I’m pretty much settled in from the move and finally getting caught up on making everything, I still feel like I’ve run four marathons back to back to back…  A lot has been going on.  It’s just that time of year where the craziness starts and it won’t slow down until Christmas comes.

August 4th: The Corner Spot 

The first two weeks of August I set up in a little pop-up (affectionately called “The Shed”).  This was part of a town initiative in Ashland to create a community space.  They created a park area, and the shed for local artisans and food to come in set up for a time and sell their products.  I had applied to be a part of this back in February when they sent out a call for proposals.  I figured it would be a good experience–especially if I wanted to one day have my own store front.  Here’s my set up. I’ll have a full post soon on more about my time there.

August 7th: Restocking 

One thing I was able to do while set up in Ashland was work.  It was nice to have a space to do stuff when the shop was slow.  I restocked on my Gifts for the Magically Inclined. Going to have to make more soaps! But hopefully I’m restocked for the moment.

August 8th: Soap Soap Soap!

I continued on my crazy soap making spree in August.  Here’s lilac in the mold.  I finally got (mostly) all my restocks made and my fall soaps done.  Now I can start thinking about making the winter soaps ha! It never ends.

August 9th: Baby Shower Favors

Baby Shower favors! I adore these.  The customer wanted an earthy green and it was so much fun to be able to do something just a little different than my normal colors!

 

August 1oth: Bath & Body Class

I had classes all week  while at the corner spot.  This was a teen Bath and Body class that day. It was lots of fun making product with the girls! Hopefully inspiring some young girls too!

 

August 11th: Custom Anchor Soaps

Aren’t these pretty! I love the simplicity of them and can’t wait to design the labels to go with them.

August 13th: Pranks

I house sat for my parents while they were gone in August.  And my dad (an Army guy) played a prank on his neighbor (an Air Force guy) while they were on vacation in July.  Well I walk out on the deck to water some flowers only to be startled by this lovely rat. Ha! Go Army! I was raised right ;).  I know who’s the best.

 

August 14th: Lip Balms

Oh my! If I never see another lip balm tube again. Ha!  It too me a week, but I restocked on all 16 flavors I offer.  Almost 1000 lip balms made. I’m hoping they’ll get me through the winter season, but I have a feeling I’ll be making lip balms again before the year is over.

 

August 15th: My Happy Place: The Dance Studio

Despite all the work and craziness I’ve made time to make it to ballet each week.  It’s my happy place–where I can just forget about all the worries for an hour and lose myself in dance.

August 17th: Transparent Soap!

I make a pink grapefruit soap with goat’s milk. I make my soaps go through gel phase. This soap went through an intensive gel phase! 24 hours after I made it-completely cooled and it has this glassy slightly transparent look. I’ll be interested to see if this changes as it cures! I’ve NEVER had a soap stay this transparent looking!  It’s super cool. You can see my finger behind the soap!

August 18th: Designing Custom Labels 

 

I had a couple custom orders this month. They’re so fun to do for me.  Remember the anchor soap for a few photos up…well I got to design labels for them. I was really happy with how they turned out. This was my initial sketch I started with before I put them into Photoshop.

 

August 21st: Mini Vacation Starts (Sort of) 

Every year I take the last two weeks of August off from shows (I cheated a bit this year I did schedule two weekend farmers markets…but the other 12 days are mine).  I need this time to 1) Work on Winter  Soaps and restocking products and 2) to recoup and relax! I am utterly exhausted by the time I get to the end of August and crazy show season is just about to start.  I need that break to get through the coming four months.  This year more so that normal! I have plans to do some work (what needs to get done) and then I’m doing some day trips, exploring my new town, and just enjoying life and some time off.

Oh…one last thing if you haven’t heard. I offically (finally) started an Instagram account! I know, I know it took me long enough. You can find me here: jennifer_soap


Using Tallow in Bath Products

April 7, 2017

I’ve been on a kick lately with this whole tallow in products.  First it was soap (which I really am likely and am SERIOUSLY–though it’s the last thing I need right now–considering a line of tallow soaps)!  Now it’s bath products.

In February mt friend’s sister asked if I made tallow lotion. I don’t make lotion, but I said I could probably do it in a body butter or balm.  And that kind of sparked my interest in tallow.  I started doing more research.  Products in soap work (to some degree) similarly in bath products, but they are also completely different products from soap.  My research lead to a number of discoveries.

No one’s allowed to get grossed out over tallow! Got it?? 😀  It’s no different from ANY vegetable oil we use it’s just fat from an animal as opposed to a plant!  And it’s good stuff! First, what is tallow? It’s definition:

tal·low (n)

  1. a hard fatty substance made from rendered animal fat, used in making candles and soap.

Tallow comes from cows, deer, mutton, and the like.  Lard is from pigs.  The tallow I’m working with is beef (cow) tallow.

It’s fatty acid profile: (obviously there is variation here from one batch to the next, one animal to the next, but this gives us a general idea.

  • Saturated fatty acids
    • Palmitic acid(C16:0): 26%
    • Stearic acid(C18:0): 14%
    • Myristic acid(C14:0): 3%
  • Monounsaturated fatty acids:
    • Oleic acid(C18-1, ω-9): 47%
    • Palmitoleic acid(C16:1): 3%
  • Polyunsaturated fatty acids:
    • Linoleic acid: 3%
    • Linolenic acid: 1%

So, why is tallow so great?  Well let’s take a look at tallow and its properties.

Tallow is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, selenium, iron, phosphorus, potassium and riboflavin. Grassfed beef tallow contains high ratio of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is a cancer-resistant agent. Contrary to the popular conception, tallow is good for health as tallow fat is similar to the fat/muscles in the heart. Recent studies have shown that human beings need at least 50% of saturated fats like tallow and lard to keep the heart pumping hard and healthy. Tallow from pasture-raised cows also contains a small amount of Vitamin D, similar to lard. ~ source beeftallow.com

We all know (and have probably heard endless numbers of times) that our skin is the largest organ of our body.  It absorbs a large amount of what we come in contact with (both good and bad).  Tallow closely resembles our own cellular makeup and it seems like a smart ingredient to use on our skin.

MommyPotamus has done research on tallow and has this to say:

Tallow is uniquely compatible with the biology of our cells. About 50% of the structure of our cell membrane comes from saturated fats, with remaining amounts consisting of monounsaturated and to a lesser degree polyunsaturated fats. According to Nourishing Traditions, it is the saturated fats that give cell membranes the “necessary stiffness and integrity”  necessary for proper function (p. 11). The saturated fat ratio of tallow is 50-55% saturated fat, making it uniquely compatible with our skin. (source) It also contains Omega 3 fatty acids, which support cell membrane structure and therefore help skin hold in moisture. (source 1source 2)

Tallow contains skin nourishing ingredients that plant-based oils do not. Tallow contains an abundance of naturally occurring fat soluble vitamins (A,D,K and E), Omega 3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).

All of this makes tallow a really good fat to use on our skin!  After my research I was excited to get started on experimenting.  The two products I’m currently experimenting with are a tallow body butter and a tallow foot/hand balm.

My first though when formulating recipes was: How much do I use??? There’s so little information out there.  I looked at blogs, books, YouTube and people don’t use tallow. A lot of times when I formulate I start by making notes of recommended percentage usages of the ingredients I want to use for a specific type product.  Then I’ll jot down other ingredients I know I want/need in the product and their recommend usage rates and then from there start formulating.

Once I have a couple rough formulates I’ll go online and research other recipes that are similar to the product I’m making.  I couldn’t really do this step this time.  There just aren’t any recipes out there.  Which wasn’t a big deal.  It just meant a bit more experimenting on my part and making some (logical) deductions.

I ended up with two body butter recipes each using a different percentage of tallow.  I added Shea butter to both recipes.  I was afraid to do a straight tallow recipe.  My initial though was it would be too brittle (thinking tallow is a hard oil like coconut), but I realized after I made my recipes that tallow, while solid at room temperature, is actually softer than Shea butter.

  1. Recipe 1 used 25%
  2. Recipe 2 used 40%

Both have a wonderful LOVELY consistency to them right now–though I love the 40% feel more than the 25%.  The 40% (recipe 2) one is definitely softer than the 25% one (recipe 1) and I don’t know how well it will hold up in the summer heat.  I have a feeling that it might be too high a percentage of tallow and potentially melt or go VERY soft come summer.  It’s something I’m going to pay attention to and take note on.

My thoughts after testing these for about 6 weeks:

Recipe 1: This was actually preferred by my testers. I liked it, but it was a bit stiff. Probably will bode well for the summer and warmer weather. Overall, it moisturizer well and went on smooth and wasn’t overly greasy.

Recipe 2: this one I liked,  it it wasn’t preferred by my testers. They felt it was too heavy and didn’t absorb in as well. I think not adding any fragrance to it didn’t help as it had a tallow-y smell to it.

Using it on my Face: I loved recipe 2 as a heavy duty face moisturizer. It kept my dry flaky skin nice and if I put it in at night by morning it was absorbed in and I could put make up on and get thru the day without my skin flaking.

Now I want to try and new blend that is a mix of the two recipes. Add a little more Shea  utter and cut back on the tallow from recipe 2. We shall see what the results are.


Tallow Recipe Formulating: Part 2

March 7, 2017

Testing Time!  I sent out 8 batches to long time users of my soap to test.  Note: These soaps were made in October 2016 and sent to testers.  With most of the results in here’s what I found.

I asked them the following questions:

Conditions of Use: Hard/Soft Water?  Do you wash with soap on skin or use a washcloth/poof?

As you used: (they used a ranking system)

  1. How long did the bar last?
  2. How did the bar lather?
  3. Did you like the “feel” of the soap?
  4. What did you like about the bar?
  5. What did you dislike about the bar?
  6. Did you have a preference/favorite?
  7. Rank the bars from favorite to least favorite.
  8. Do you have any other comments you wish to add?

Results: So, I get results that go from one end of the spectrum to the other. I’m used to this. Part of why I ask people their skin type/water type/how the wash is because that can greatly shape why someone likes or dislikes a soap and it helps me hone in on what the results really are saying.

Overall, no one really DISLIKED any of them, but people definitely had preferences.

Bar #5 was probably the least favorite for everyone with the exception of one tester who love it.  This doesn’t surprise me.  It was the bar with 70% tallow.  I got a lot of: “it lasted a long time, but the lather wasn’t great.”  And also, “too much of a squeaky clean feeling”.  It was definitely my LEAST favorite.

Tallow makes a great hard bar, but it lacks the ability to add lather and isn’t the most conditioning of fats.  I tried a 70% tallow bar because when I was doing my initial research there were a number of people who said they used up to 70% and I just couldn’t wrap my head around that much tallow being a nice bar so I decided to try one for myself.

Bar #2 and Bar #3 weren’t disliked or loved, but just weren’t favorites.  Both of these recipes used 50% tallow.  People with oily skin actually liked this bar better than those with normal to dry skin.  I wasn’t impressed with the lather.  In part that was because I cut down on the amount of coconut oil I used to accommodate the additional tallow.

Bar #1 and Bar #4 just about ended up in a tie.  Either way they were the top two finishers for most of my testers.  Bar #1 used 19.4% tallow and was my standard recipe with a straight sub of tallow for palm.  Most liked the lather, the feel on the skin, and the feel after showering.  All around it was generally liked.

Bar #4 was 25% tallow.  And I think that might be a magic number for me with using tallow in a recipe.  The one down side is this bar seemed to go a little faster.  I had people test travel size bars (I tested a full size). To me the full size bar lasted about as long as my standard bar.  Travel bars are smaller and thinner.  I actually think the reason that this bar went a little quicker was because I kept using it (longer than an of the other bars) each time I showered. I just LOVED the feel of it on my skin (as did many of my testers).

End thoughts: I went into this thinking Bar #1 would be my favorite. I LOVE my current recipe and that bar was just a straight sub of palm for tallow.  I didn’t make any other changes.  I was sure nothing else would stand up to that bar.  And while I did like Bar #1 (19.4% tallow) my favorite was Bar #4 (25% tallow).

Ultimately from this experiment I would recommend a usage rate between 20 and 25% of tallow in a recipe.

Thank you to all my testers!  I appreciate your help.

 


Tallow Recipe Formulating: Part 1

March 6, 2017

I have wanted to make tallow soap since I first read about animal fats in soap.  I wish I could remember the book I read about them in (it was one of the many I devoured when I first started making soap and was requesting every soap book my library had.)

When I started making soap to sell I’d formulated a recipe that was free of animal products and was a really nice bar. I love it.  My customers love it and at this point I wouldn’t change it, but I have still had this burning desire to play with tallow and formulate a new recipe…maybe an additional or specialty line of soaps one day.  Either way I knew I’d love using them and my family and friends would too.

I set to work creating different recipes.  The first one I did was a straight up sub of palm oil for beef tallow (run through a lye calculator of course).  Then from there I started playing. I had six different recipes by the time I got done.  And I realized some were a little too similar and so I managed to narrow it down to three recipes (so I was left with four total).

The biggest differences in these recipes was mainly the percentage of tallow I used.  I’d done a lot of reading and research and come up with a wide range of percentages to use in a recipe: from 25% up to 75% (in fact I think one person even told me they use 80%).  That’s a huge range and so I decided to do testing.  At first I didn’t go above 50% in my four test batches, but I decided a couple weeks later that I would do one more test batch with 70% tallow, mostly because I was really curious how a bar with 70% tallow would turn out.

Recipe 1:  19.4% Tallow

2016-08-07 16.47.04

This recipe was kind of my control recipe in the sense it was the exact same as my normal bars, but I subbed tallow for palm oil.  I wanted to see if there were any differences people picked up.

Recipe 2: 50% Tallow / 20% Olive

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Recipe 3: 50% Tallow / 15% Olive

2016-08-07 16.48.05

 

Recipe 4: 25% Tallow

2016-08-07 16.47.43

 

Recipe 5: 70% Tallow

2016-08-15 10.11.41

All recipes used a water discount of about 15%.

Initial reports from the five recipes is that each created a fairly hard bar (to the touch after a four week cure time), though Recipe 5 was definitely the hardest (even after just 48 hours!  Seeing that it was made with 70% tallow I wasn’t surprised with those results.


The Making of Safari Themed Soap Favors

November 22, 2016

First, let me say I am INSANE.  There is no other word to describe me trying to create animal favors during crazy show season when I don’t have time to do anything but constantly restock for my business.

I was told to just get the rubber safari ducks and embed them in a soap base and use those as favors.  They would have been cute and worked, but they just weren’t what I imagined.  So…out came the notepad as I started to brainstorm and sketch some ideas.

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This image was my inspiration. (I looked at so many safari themed cupcakes in trying to figure out how to make these soaps).

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I would normally make all the embeds first and then make the bases, but I was super short on time and I knew if they were going to have enough time to cure before the party I needed to make them asap.  So I made the bases and then started figuring out the embed pieces I’d need.  Eyes…ears…whiskers…faces…noses…mouths…oh my word! There were a million little different pieces I needed for each different animal.

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These were the bases that I was gonna have to attach a million tiny pieces to…

Once I figured that out there was then the challenge of cutting them all out. I needed an oval cookie cutter that I didn’t have.  So I sacrificed a piping tip and shaped it into an oval.  It worked in my hour of need, but piping tips don’t make good cookie cutters.

Piping tips as a cookie cutter...the brain figures out how to make it all work ha!

Piping tips as a cookie cutter…the brain figures out how to make it all work ha!

All those tiny circles?  Those are the other end of the misshapen piping tip.  Again, not a great cookie cutter ha, but it worked.

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Once the circle were cut I started playing around and realized I could imprint a circle into them and then fill them with a “wet” mica to add extra color.  I also used a skewer dipped in wet mica to make the whiskers marks on the tiger.  THE-MOST-ANNOYING-THING-EVER.  I was ready to pull my hair out.

Was it worth it? Yes.  The added extra touch just makes the soaps, but OYE!!

Because I didn’t make the embeds first I had to “embed” them onto already hard soap.  Which meant an extra step of putting wet soap on one side and then putting it on the hard soap.  Could have saved myself time if the embeds had been done before, but I didn’t know what I was going to need and I was in a crunch for time so the bases had to get done before everything else.

The final step was the piping.  Oh so much piping.

Giraffe: I had to pipe the spots and horns on him.  I love him. He’s so so so stinking cute!

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Lion: Piping his mane turned out so much better than I thought it would.  When all the pieces came together I was in love with him too.  The stringy mane/hair just totally did it for me ;).

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So many different stages to piping the lions. I still had the eyes and mouth left to do once I got to this point. Have I mentioned these were an incredible amount of work?

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Tiger: If I ever do these again I need to find a better way to do the stripes.  It was tedious to do these and it’s not as clean looking as I wanted, but it was the best I could do with what I had.  They’re still cute.

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Gorilla (which was supposed to be a monkey):  There was somr major improvising that went on with these when I started to pipe them.  What I wanted to do wasn’t happening and on the fly I just said…let’s try this and it worked.  I really do think these are cute.  Disaster averted!

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Zebra: The first couple I did were really bad.  It took a while to get the hang of these.  Piping straight or curved lines that need to come out steady and even is a hard hard thing to do.  They’re not bad looking. Not perfect and a few things I’d change next time, but I love them. I especially love the ears.  I happened to have the perfect mini cookie cutter to use as ears and the little pink in them just makes them stand out.

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And there you have it.  My absolute madness…and all this during prime busy season for me when I barely have two minutes for anything outside of the business.

The final soaps:

safari1

giraffe2

gorilla

lion3

tiger

zebra1