Monday, April 27, 2009

Apopka Art and Foliage Festival, April 25 - 26, 2009

This weekend started off all wrong. The gal from the Women's Club who has been setting up the artists area for years was not doing it this year. So, I arrived to set up only to find my spot that I had requested was moved. Someone had decided to hire a surveyor to set up the show! LOL

Now, if that doesn't sound like a problem...let me just say that the Women's Club ended up with a really nice new map of the park. BUT, the actual flow of the show was just as bad as it has always been--but with the major exception that those of us who have done the show for a while found we were all in different locations.

The Kit Land Park is a gorgeous place for a show--but the set up has always been very haphazardous. It is nearly impossible for shoppers to navigate. It is even harder for those poor Women's Club booth sitter volunteers to find a booth--even using a map. This year with everyone moved around it was particularly awful. So having been in the same location for years, my customers knew where to find me--until now.

SO, I did what I did--way down from prior years despite being the ONLY soapmaker at the show. I am so disappointed in the show, but, on the bright side, I got a few plants for the backyard! I think I remember the names--a firebush which has a red stalky flower and a summer callias with delicate looking yellow blooms.

I also got to see Heath and his family and Warren and some of his friends. SO, all was not lost. Let's hope they finally figure out to ask a few artists to come up with a plan for the show...

The Mockingbird and Hawk War, April 27, 2009

Emily has been banned from the backyard until the chicks are airborn...she has been stalking the mockingbird parents as they look for worms. So they in turn started dive bombing the stalker. Fair is fair, right?!?!

Tonight after dinner I was doing a soap inventory when the birds in the backyard started some major chatter. I looked out from the back patio to see a big bird sitting on the branch by the mockingbird nest. Yikes! I hollered at Rod and he came out and said it was a hawk.

I shooed it away and it retreated to the fence, and then the neighbor's roof. After a bit the birds settled down and I managed to sneak a peak at the nest...and it looked like all the chicks were dead. BUT, I am happy to say that when I went in for a closer look a half hour later, the little guys reared up like they were waiting for Mamma to feed them. I counted hopefully they are ok.

The hawk came back a couple times as I sat out keeping watch as it approached dusk. I hope he finds another meal somewhere else, but, now that he knows that nest is close, the days may be numbered for our little friends. Bummer!

UPDATE: I just went out and checked on them about 10:40 pm and one of the parents is in the nest keeping them safe. Yea...gosh, I hope we can get some of these chicks to the flying stage.

UPDATE #2: This morning (4/28) I was spying on them from the back bedroom and I saw three hungry mouths. We didn't catch the hawk anywhere around maybe he found easier pickings elsewhere.

The Swedes Visit, April 22-24,2009


Deb and Jan came down from Fernandina last week to visit with Jan's daughter and family who are here from Sweden. It was a busy week--catching up from my big show in Delray, making soap, cleaning for company and then getting ready for the little show in Apopka. BUT, we had LOTS of fun...mainly involving wine, mojitos and some good food. And Miss Debbie turned out to be an excellent soap wrapper...helping me do a tray and a half for the Apopka show. Thanks, Deb!!!

The Nordstroms made a quick trip over to the IKEA store and turned us onto the shrimp in the food section. Apparently it is caught in Norway and then immediately cleaned and boiled in sea water before being frozen and it is supposed to be yummy. We have not used it yet, but, it is going to be dinner one night. Oh, dang, I wish I had some of Pam's Goodhinds pesto to go with the shrimp. I am gonna be craving that now. . .

Maria and Johan
Rod, Johan and Bo
For dinner we met over at the Ale House. Maria and her family were already there--hubby Johan, sons Fredric (14) and the other son who is coming to the US to try out for some hockey teams--Deb tell me his name please! (22) and daughter Cecelia (20). Bo, Jan's son who lives here in Orlando, met us later with his son, Eric and daughter, Lisa.

Cecelia and Jan

Thursday, while Rod worked and Jan was over at Bo's preparing for the BBQ later, Deb and I made fizzies and wrapped soap. About when we were done, Maria's family came over for a quick dip in the COLD pool. Dang, I wish we had a heater on that (sometimes anyway!) We headed over to Bo's about 6pm--after a cocktail hour or two.

Bo was putting up his sister's family for the week or so that they were here. Maria and Johan spent the nights in Bo's cute little camper. I love it! Everybody had a great time. The guys manned the grill and dinner and drinks were excellent.

I really wish I had grown up in a household where you learned two languages. I really want to learn Italian...and of course being in Florida, Spanish would come in very handy every day. Hm, one day...maybe!

Rod, Fredric and Eric

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Green Acres, April 21, 2009

OK, got the song playing in your head? Scroll down...

The new Strawberry plant.

A row of sweet corn shoots.

Jack and the Bean Stalk

Little Swiss Chard starts.

The Big Tomato

On the left is the new strawberry grow kit and on the right is the cherry tomato seedlings.

Funny, maybe I do have a green thumb in me somewhere. LOL I bought four more packets of seeds (cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon and a combo of green and red peppers), a strawberry potted plant and I am sitting here and wondering why the heck shouldn't we have a bigger garden since there is no sod in the backyard anyway! So, I may get some cucumbers too! Ha!

Rod thinks I am nuts. I suppose he has already fast forwarded to August when I won't be here and he will have to pick stuff. I tried to bribe him with thoughts of big, tasty tomatoes (ala the ones my Mom grows in Illinois) but he remains sceptical.

Delray Affair, April 17-19, 2009

View of the Intercoastal from Veterans Park

Delray has been a show I look forward to all year. I get to see many artists I only see once a year, the quality of the arts and crafts is exceptional and of course, I make some money along the way! LOL

Quiet Morning...

This year, the vibe was not good--the promotion of the event is now being split by the Chamber of Commerce and a private group. For most artists, this show is their big moneymaker of the Spring. We count on people knowing where we are from year to year and knowing we will have what they want to buy. This year, the new promotor moved many artists from their prized spots along the Avenue (one gal I know has been in the same spot for 28 years and was moved to a SIDEWALK!). The copper artist next to me had been in his spot 16 years. SO, artists were all upset.
On the upside, the WEATHER WAS PERFECT!! Temps in the low 80's and just a tad breezy--this is Florida in the Spring! However, it was windy. While I don't think we ever had higher than a 20 mph gust, some folks don't realize how quickly it can all go wrong...

Then add to that they extended the hours from 10-6pm on Friday and Saturday to 10-8pm and you really got us riled up! LOL For the unfamiliar, those extra two hours do not bring extra sales. This pre and post-dinner crowd is usually just out for a stroll--they are not buying customers. SO, the benefit to the artists is pretty much ZERO--we work more hours for the same money. In fact, for me it was such a huge negative, I emailed the promotors prior to the show...and emailed and emailed. I decided to get even for no return calls by not spending a dime in Delray. We usually have two nice dinners out plus we buy supplies from the office supply and grocery stores--not this time. We learned that the promotor told us our fellow "artists had requested the extended hours" but in fact it was really that the local merchants and restaurants whom had asked for the longer hours.

BUT, the bottom line is that in fact of way fewer people than usual (this show is billed as 250,000 in attendance)--my sales were up about 15% from the prior year. This is for one reason only--YOU GUYS. Thanks to my loyal customers who continue to buy my shea butter soap and incense I had a pretty good year (in spite of myself). LOL Thank you all so much!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

2009 Garden

The Rosemary survived the freeze...
The Lemongrass too! In the back right...the basil didn't...but the Lemon Balm and Tarragon are going strong.

The Cuban Oregano is coming back!

My Mohito Mint is doing well!

I had to cut back the monster Cilantro and my Stevia is growing like a weed.

Those of you who know me, know that I really have a black thumb. My grandparents, my parents, even my brother can grow things. But, not me. I had a garden back in the mid-1990's and it grew, but, I ran out of time to keep it up. Before you knew it, it was overgrown with weeds. BUT, I do remember we got a lot of pole beans from it!

So, after reading an article on gardening in the AARP magazine (ROD's mag, not mine!!! LOL) and listening to my friend Eve talk about her greenhouse, I decided it was time to do a small plot. Just one little basically 4 foot by 4 foot plot. You can see from the look of the backyard "grass"--we are not losing too much by putting in a small garden. LOL

I added a couple bags of manure to my sandy soil and I was off to Home Depot to get seeds.

The tiniest little cherry tomato sprouts you may have ever seen--just three days old!!
I came back with some pole beans, swiss chard, carrots and cherry tomatoes. I put the cherry tomato seeds in a grow tray and keep the mister close by, and so far two of the seeds are sprouting up. It could be four of the six, but, the other two are so small I won't know until tomorrow. The pole bean and swiss chard seeds went right in the ground and the carrots will wait until Fall.

I also cleaned out the side flower bed in the backyard--and put some bachelor button and gaillardia seeds in...will see what comes up there besides aloe and weeds...cross fingers!!! Oh, this picture was taken before the string trimmer was the grass is growing LONG here!

When Rod got home and saw the small veggie plot he asked about sweet corn. Of course I am reluctant to try to grow that--when my Dad farmed, he grew the BEST sweet corn ever. Jodie and I sold what we picked in a pickup truck on the driveway on Roosevelt Rd....we made good money too. We always had fair money to play with! But, I dug up another 5x8 foot plot, added some more manure and I hope it will get enough sun to yeild something. OH, and the end of the plot is where we dug up a bunch of rocks in a planter--so, there are the remnants of a rock garden for the corn roots to contend with. I don't know what to do about borders for these plots yet...but I will figure something out.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Mockingbird, April 10, 2009

While I was picking some oranges yesterday, as I neared the back of the tree, I noticed a bird sitting in a nest that I thought had been abandoned. I thought there was something wrong with her--no sounds, no movement--and my hand was really close to the nest as I was picking the oranges.

I hollered at Rod to grab a camera and come out and take a look. She had changed position, so I knew she was ok, and while Rod snapped off a couple pics, she flew off. We managed to get a couple pictures of the eggs--four of them!!

I didn't really learn anything from my 4-H Bird Identification I had no idea it was a mockingbird. But, Rod knew right away. We are going to have to figure out a way to keep Bonnie away from the fledglings once they leave the nest. It takes about two week for the eggs to hatch and then about two weeks for the chicks to fledge. SO, maybe a chicken wire fence around the tree will keep the birdlets safe from our ferocious terrier....who killed a fledgling just a couple years ago. She was on top of the poor thing before I even saw her start chasing it...and that of course was the end of that chick. We hope to not let that happen this time! Emily is keeping watch under the tree...I think she has spotted the nest too. Bad ANIMALS!

Working around the House, April 10, 2009

So Rod is off for the weekend and it looks like we may have some company next weekend, so, it is time to finish up the weeding and remulching in the front planter. Hours and a trip to Lowes later, we finished up that project...only to start on a couple more! LOL

Our kitchen cabinets are painted and on the high use doors, the oils from food products and of course from all my soapmaking really are hard on the paint around the knobs. In the March/April issue of Lowe's Creative Ideas magazine, I saw a cool little project that I thought would work perfectly. They suggested using fender washers to enhance your regular knobs--which in my case would serve as a mask for where the paint was always wearing off too soon. So, a can of metal primer, 20 really big washers (at only .31 each!), several coats of red spray paint and then several coats of a clear coat...and voila!!! Cool backers for my existing knobs...and a way to get even more red in my kitchen! LOL
Ugh...this is the worst one!

So bright and fresh, I love it!

We also pulled the string trimmer out to finish up the "weed cutting" in the backyard. I had a little accident trimming a couple weeks ago--sometimes the automatic feeder gets bound up and you have to pull off the housing to the string spool and feed it manually. Well, the last time I used the trimmer, when I pulled the housing off the spring that sits right under it...SPRUNG! LOL I looked ALL over the place for that spring, but, I could not find it anywhere. So, I had to order some replacements from Toro...which arrived on Friday. So, we now have a nicely trimmed backyard once again thanks to Rod and his back brace!
I also had a couple minor repairs to my kitchen rug--I am not ready to throw it out yet...I love it and I want to keep it for a bit longer--so I had to sew some new binding on one place and just run a straight stitch over a longer section on the opposite side. This poor rug takes a lot of abuse (main house entry and main work room for soapmaking) so hopefully now it will last a couple more months.

I also had a little painting to do in the master bathroom. The place on the wall that the cabinet door hits had caused the paint to buckle, so I fixed it and added a "stop" to the wall. Then I finally pulled the border off--the old border matched the bedroom decor--but it didn't fit with the sea turtle/beach colors in the bath. For now I just painted it to match the walls, but, I am hoping to find a border that fits some day!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Soapmaking Day 2, April 8, 2009

I just measured out the first pots of the day and the oils and butters are melting as I type this. When it's cold out--and it is only about 54 degrees here--even some of the oils are solid. This is what the oils look like after they have been on the heat for a bit:

Then we have the lye water. In this picture it is all dissolved and waiting to go into the oils once they are melted. Looks pretty innocuous, doesn't it? But, don't put a finger in there or you will lose some skin. Do you watch that TV show called Bones? In it, the bad guy dissolved a body in lye wasn't pretty. SO, that is why I am so careful when I work with the lye. I don't want to have to explain dissolved body parts to anybody!!!

I decided to use some of my new Spanish Sage Essential Oil in a new blend. Last night I played around with adding Lavender and Lemon Essential Oils together and this morning I have a blend that I am gonna try. It will take a couple weeks to get the final results, but, I like it a lot so far. Now, I just have to come up with a name for it...time to brainstorm. Oh, and I do keep a list of names that I like to use down the road and I will have to check that out for any potential winners.

So yesterday, I watched that movie "Australia" on DVD. I wasn't too impressed--I thought it would be more epic and less cartonish. I really hate when you can tell where the special effects are cut into the movie. I liked the story, but, the rest was just distracting. Oh, and I thought the little aboriginal boy who played Nullah was adorabe. I also caught a movie with Edward Norton (Fight Club fame) and Colin Farrell called Pride and Glory about cops on the take in NY city. It was very good! I used my free RedBox rental code from the "Hey Its Free" website. Free is good! LOL

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Preparing for the BIG SHOW, April 7, 2009

THIS is why I am busy when you call during the day sometimes--and why I
discourage you from coming to pick up soap when I am in production. It's chaotic!!!

Bonnie and I got up and moving at 6 a.m. this morning--it's very unusual for us to be up that early!!! It was cold here--almost 50 degrees and I had to wear jeans for the first time in a couple weeks. Brrrr! I got my emails finished, my shower taken, the my production list worked up and finally got a start at 8 a.m.
I wanted to get a head start on my restocks because I have two full days of soapmaking to do in preparation for the Delray Affair which is about 10 days away. It's not just those soaping days though, then there is two days of cutting, lots of days trimming and wrapping before the soap is ready. Plus, then I have all the other items--lipbalms, fizzies, oils, all takes a while to get it ready.
I have pretty full curing racks right now, but, you have to be ready for a BIG crowd at Delray...and they usually deliver...even when the weather is dicey. I still need to get my hotel booked...I am gonna be alone this year, so, I will probably be at our "affordable" hotel in Deerfield this time.

Lake Eola's Fiesta in the Park, Orlando, FL, April 4 &5, 2009

Lake Eola is in the history books! It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend...and the 30% chance of rain on Sunday never materialized, so, all was well. My friend, Lynn the SpiceLady was next door to me this weekend--so that was fun. She was kind of sick on Saturday and just having come off being sick I was really hoping the germs stayed on her side! LOL

When I got to the park to set up on Friday night, there were only about half the booths setup already. That is unusual since I set up late, but, I didn't think too much of it...until I arrived at 7a.m. on Saturday and there weren't that many more booths set up. Bummer. To top that off, they put another soapmaker just a couple booths down from me, instead of on the opposite end of the bridge like normal. But, she turned out to be a nice gal from Winter Garden with very small, expensive organic soaps. SO, we were different enough that it ended up not mattering.

Overall, there were 100 missing vendors this year. The committee agreed to let the crafters from the Sunday Farmers Market into the Fiesta this year. We had some issues with the farmer's market folks following the rules the rest of us put up with year after year...but in the end it all worked out for everyone. I met a nice lady and her daughter who make the coolest aprons, Janice and Jenise. Look for their website at

Sunday I walked over to the vegetable stand and bought some pole beans, strawberries, red peppers and radishes. I also started getting a killer headache in the afternoon--one of those that make you feel like you are gonna get sick. Unfortunately, the lavender essential oil on the temples didn't help this time...and it got worse when I loaded up. My van was sitting right near one of the big catering trucks the food vendors use--and they were burning diesel. Yuck! It finally let up about 9 pm. so I could get unloaded.

So, I ended up doing fine thanks to many of you regulars. Without you all, I would be forced to give up something I love doing. Thank you!!! From the bottom of my heart!