Sorry I haven’t been consistent in my blogging the past couple of weeks. Was crazy leading up to the Made in New Hampshire Expo, and then we had news my Father-in-Law passed away. We had to make an unscheduled visit to Colorado to start sewing up his estate. What’s sad is we had planned on heading there at the beginning of May, so to have missed seeing him was heartbreaking for us. It’s been a wild 10 days since.

So what am I getting at? Friends, PLEASE communicate what your end of life plans are with your friends and family. We are left with a step mom who has alzheimers, and an estate that is in flux. If we knew where a will might be located, or ideas on what to do with the stunning log cabin home and various other properties, it would be so much easier. There’s no shame or embarrassment in telling people what you want. Believe me, it’s harder on family when we are playing amateur sleuths and rifling thru papers and more looking for the answers, and sadly, not finding them easily.

And plan on contingencies. There’s no way they planned on the step mom having alzheimers, and trying to obtain the authorizations to make sure she is getting the best care possible and stays safe and healthy is of utmost importance but exceptionally complicated.

I know this post isn’t really soap related, but I suspect many of you are like me…at an age where these things must be confronted and dealt with. I was so fortunate – my mom worked with an estate planning attorney for years before her passing. She articulated to each one of us her wishes, explained her thinking and upon her passing we dealt with grief, and not having to handle the stress of sorting thru this murky world. I had no idea how much work my brother absorbed as executor of her estate, but am ever thankful for his clearheaded and steadfast guidance through those turbulent months.

On a lighter note…it’s still our Anniversary month. And at the end of the month, we are heading to San Francisco for a few days of kicking back with friends. I think at this point, we need it. ❤

Gonna leave you with a pic of the view from the front yard of my father in law’s home.

~ Karen


5 simple ways to de-stress

So, I’m not really known as being chill. On the surface, I might seem pretty laid back. And my terrible memory makes me seem more scattered than I really am. But truth is, I’m pretty tightly wound up and can be pretty hyper-critical about myself. Sound familiar? And especially in today’s complicated world, where the news is constantly thrown at us, noise is increasingly numbing our senses, and we are becoming frantic with “I haftas” (ie. I have to do this, I have to do that…) stress is a way of life.

But we do need to take a few breaks to soothe our frayed nerves.  Here are my top five simple ways to de-stress.

  1.  Breathing deeply. Take a few moments to think about breathing. Listen to your heart beat. Hear what it’s saying. Breath in, hold it, breath out. I was recently having a medical procedure and my blood pressure was a bit on the high side. As I laid on the hospital bed with the nurses and anesthesiologist watching the little devices, I heard my inner “voice of mom” say soothingly “just breath.” And my BP started to head lower!
  2. Stretching/Yoga:  sometimes the stress settles in our backs, necks, everywhere. Sometimes simple stretches can break up the tension, and provides relief to a tense and stiff body. Here’s are three easy and effective stretches: https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/3-stretches-reduce-stress-naturally
  3. Walking:  Here’s another “voice of mom” experience – when I’m super stressed, I walk. My mom was my bestie, and in our daily phone calls, we’d talk about what our days were like, etc. When she heard me saying certain things she’d always say “Maybe you need to go for a little walk.” Always seemed to do the trick for me, too. And it didn’t need to be a grand 5-mile hike. A simple 10-15 minute walk around the yard fit the bill when I needed to blow off the stress steam.
  4. Writing/journaling:  Sometimes I find it cathartic to get the stuff that’s all up in my head out on paper. It’s seems so simple, and it is. Just start writing. Not for anyone but you. No one but you needs to see it. You may be like me and not even read it. Just spew the words out (preferably on paper…typing doesn’t do it for me!) and get that stuff out. You could take it a step further, too. Use that expulsion of mental words to find a path to creative expression, or positive goal setting. Ask yourself “What do I do/think/feel now?” and see where it takes you.
  5. Bath time!  You are silly if you didn’t think I’d include my favorite past-time to de-stress. I used to call them “Celebrate Karen Days.” I’d light candles, use oils and salts or whatever and sit in a hot tub for as long as I had hot water. I still keep it pretty simple…my bath the other night didn’t feature much beyond a razor, a bar of my Cheers, Mate! Beer Soap (made with Guinness Beer and goat milk!) and my iPad propped up so I could watch something on Hulu. (Don’t tell my husband, but one of the selling points of this house was the cast iron claw foot tub in our incredibly tiny bathroom….priorities!)

Hope you find this helpful. Thanks!



Ticked Off.

Who else is already a little more than freaked out about the insane amount of ticks out there this season? I was hoping that week of super frigid temps we had way back in January would mitigate the numbers, but it turns out that’s not precisely how it works.

Evidently, when the pilgrim came to New England, they cut back wide swaths of the forest, which housed the deer the ticks LURVE. As our forests grew back, the landscape changed dramatically – our forests were chopped up and bisected by roads and farms, and essentially became breeding grounds for the mousies (technical term…) that host the Lyme-disease carrying ticks. And our longer warm seasons in the fall and spring make our exposure to the tick season even longer.

So, the ticks are all over. What can you do? Try my Haywood J. Buzzoff Spray. Seriously. It’s a natural, DEET-free spritz I make that works on keeping black flies (!), ticks and mosquitoes away. I spritz everything with it – me, my clothes, lawn furniture, screens, everything. It works great on humans two and up (I am just not comfortable advocating using essential oils on littles!)  Canines are fine with it. Felines are NOT. (I don’t advocate any essential oils for cats…they don’t metabolize essential oils well and while they may be perfectly fine, all of a sudden may not be. Not worth the risk to me).

The spray is natural – no DEET, no alcohol, no preservatives, nothin’ but aloe, witchhazel and a concoction of 13 different essential oils I came up with that work.
And what’s cool is it smells pretty good – it’s kind of an herbaceous lemon smell that DOESN’T stink!

Now, if I could stumble upon the right blend that keeps the stupid deer flies/horse flies away…

~ Karen


A few decluttering ideas

I so admire people who are organized up front. What on earth do I mean? I mean people who take the time to get and stay organized. Who put stuff away in the “right places” all the time.

I am not one of you.

And maybe that’s why I struggle with finding some things. Why I am so absent-minded about stuff, and why my soap room looked like it was a bit of a disaster up until a few weeks ago.

See, I started taking my time decluttering after a major re-org. I’m tossing onesies-twosies of stuff I don’t need, selling stuff that is sell-able. Clothes are being donated. Outdated decor tossed or donated. And creating systems to make life easier when the inevitable fall holiday rush comes upon me and I’m doing 16-18 hour days just producing.

Here are a couple of things I’m finding works for me:  have designated spaces for stuff and do NOT put anything else in those spaces, as tempting and as clean of a surface as may be. (Now to work on adding more space for all the stuff I make…)

Label everything. It makes me feel guilty if I have 5 bins for lip balms and think I’ll use an empty one for the natural ingredients I use for coloring my soaps if it already says WATERMELON LIP BALMS. The tiny little OCD woman who lives inside me wouldn’t let that happen.

Take time every day to write to-do lists, even if it includes stuff I didn’t get to yesterday. Oh boy do I love lists. Lists lists LISTS! Nothing like the lovely scratch-out of an item completed. Or the motivation to do SOMETHING on the list so it’s not completely copied to the next day’s list.

What works for you, my friends? I’m open to suggestions. And I’m off to the dump in a little bit. I’ve decluttered my closets, most of my soap room and I’ve started decluttering my front porch (which is sort of a catch-all for old rugs, vacuums that don’t work, and for some odd reason lots of tops to 5 gallon buckets. Not to mention so many old planters I could host a victory garden out there.

Can anyone use a 90 gallon fishtank and stand for free? Yep, one of the glass panels is cracked, so it won’t work for water. But if you are looking for a fabulous tank for reptiles, it’d probably be fine holding water for turtles or frogs, or an amazing terrarium for lizards and things.  If you’re interested, hit me up!

~ Karen


Musings on Anniversary Eve

You may or may not know that April 1st, 2013 is what I consider to be Hemlock Springs Soaps birthday. I left my previous job on April 1, 2013, and I went into the office to collect my personal belongings and last check. I’d been making and selling soap at fairs and online since 1999, but this was a huge step to living out my dreams.

As a young professional, I devoured magazines that had sections devoted to these special women who left their glitzy corporate gigs to move to the country and turned flea market finds into big business, or raising honey bees and selling honey, or perfecting jam recipes from their great grandmothers into a great little business.

I wanted to be that woman. And never believed I could do it.

I’d bought into the rat race…flashy car, motorcycles, lots of money to spend on gardens, etc. and I thought I could NEVER afford myself.

Well, in 2013 I knew I’d never have the chance to do try it, and I haven’t looked back.

And for the most part, I have NOT looked back one second. On occasion I miss having a steady paycheck. I would LOVE to have air-conditioning throughout the house and barn and not have to endure the heat under the market tents.

If you’re actually reading this drivel, and you have dreams you’re afraid to take to the next step, just do it. I do recommend having some sort of business plan. I drained a retirement account to pay off a home equity loan and had some cash to invest in supplies and have as a tiny little back-up for bills, but just. do. it.  The stresses I have today are nowhere near the stress levels of yesterday, and charting one’s own course is the most rewarding aspect of success.

But I am so happy doing what I love. So stay tuned. April 2018 is my 5th Anniversary of making it, and I’ll be dropping some special offerings along the way to help celebrate. And thank  you to all who have trusted me to make soaps and skincare for you, your families, and friends. Here’s to April!

~ Karen

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Baby Steps

Growing an online presence is a series of baby steps that are sometimes overwhelmingly baffling to me. Does that happen to you? Sometimes I’m making decisions based on “I hope this is right” instead of really finding out the details and understanding the process. For example, I *think* I finally linked my website and my blog! 😀

Baby steps are also a great way to approach skin issyoos. I generally favor a more conservative approach to addressing things like acne, dry skin, eczema, and rashes. As a kid who broke out rolling around in the grass, hives, allergic reactions to the weirdest things, it’s the simple stuff that works.

I always kind of stutter when people ask me for advice. Why? I don’t want to EVER come off as a snake-oil maker/saleswoman. If you’ve asked me for advice, I’m gonna tell you precisely what worked for me. And here’s my normal process for evaluating these types of things:

Does it appear to be an internal reaction or external reaction?

If external – was the skin thoroughly and use something like our Whipped Shea Butter. That stuff is amazing! A few weeks ago I broke out under my FITBIT. Had a bunch of oozy gross bumps. Washed it, put on a good dose of Whipped Shea Butter and immediately the itchiness went away, and a day or two later all of my bumples were gone!

If internal – do what you need to do for an allergic reaction. Doctor. Anti-histamines. Whatever. Don’t mess with that!

As for acne solutions, I usually recommend our Activated Charcoal Complexion Soap. Seems to help remove excess dirt and gunk from the skin, and the lavender/lemongrass/tea tree essential oil combo PLUS goat milk make for a soothing bar of soap. The other recommendation is our Lavender Oats soap. Again, it’s gentle and mild, and finely ground whole oats gently exfoliate dead skin cells and soothes the skin.

If those tiny little baby steps work well, you’ve got your solution. If not, remember to keep it simple. Throwing everything at a break out or an allergic reaction might only further irritate the skin. Completely the opposite of what you want to have happen!

~ Karen




Buy My Stuff!

Wherever you are in the wide world, it’s likely that you are looking forward to the upcoming change in seasons in your neck of the woods. We are hopefully winding down on our second nor’easter in a week, with another on the horizon early next week. I’m ready for the change in seasons.

For many of you, the end of winter means your skin is overdue for some seriously decadent pampering.

You know me and Hemlock Springs Soaps is here to help. That’s why we want to remind you that what’s left of our super skin hydrating Whipped Shea Butters need to find a new home so we can make room for our spring line.

I bet there’s room in your boudoir for some of our mood-setting perfumes,  or maybe you need a restock of freshly made soaps, made with rich, organic shea butter and fresh, creamy goat milk.

Just because the weather is punishing you, doesn’t mean you should punish your skin!

Head on over to the newly redesigned website to SHOP NOW:  Hemlock Springs Soaps

coconut soap

~ Karen



Do You Procrastinate?

Do you procrastinate? According to blogger Tim Urban, who has studied this stuff a lot, everyone is a procrastinator. Some people figure out how to get things done anyway. I think I’m one of those people, some of the time. I mean, I’m working on this  so I’m not losing my chips when it gets super busy!  This video makes some good points on the topic, and is super funny too. It’s only 14 minutes long, and I suspect you might find a giggle or two along the way.

What do you think? Can you relate to the Instant Gratification Monkey? I can! He’s a cute little buggar. Cuter than the Panic Monster.

I’d love to know your thoughts. How do you overcome the temptation to give into the Instant Gratification Monkey? And if you’re not a procrastinator, please share your secrets — we need them!

Learn more about Tim Urban at his website https://waitbutwhy.com/

~ Karen


Confessions of a Soapmaker (Business Edition)

So. I embrace all the hats of being a solo entrepreneur. Mostly.  Sort of.

What am I trying to say? Here goes the Confessions part of my blog. But focusing on aspects of business.

Parts of me adore making product. I hate the mess. I love packaging. Until I have 500+ soaps that need a sweet little wrapper , label and packing. I adore getting lost in numbers, but hate the time vortex I get caught up in doing accounting and paperwork. I love doing fairs and markets and festivals until I’m on the couch after a long day, too tired to do much more than drool and watch TV that has no value beyond primitive entertainment. If that.

Why do I sound whiny? Cuz. Every year at this time I have a desire to be better at keeping track of my inventory. I have a laptop and software. I have the desire. It’s marrying the two I struggle with. I fear I have to wipe out all the previous years’ information and wipe the slate clean, take a complete inventory, and try to carve out time to record purchases AND sales to have a much better handle on what is coming in and going out of my biz. Last year, you might have seen me do an inventory before and after shows to help me track it. Yeah, that lasted a whopping 2 months.

So here’s my confession: I need help! I want to be able to do it all, but I don’t have the time or energy as the business grows. And this is such a good thing to recognize. My challenge is bringing someone on board is terrifying to me! Truthfully,  I need a Girl Friday. Someone who knows what I need, has the determination to learn the software (I taught myself and fear I don’t know enough to teach someone the right way) and someone to organize the business end of things. That would allow me to do more of the development and selling of my products.

The scary part is…while I know this would help my biz grow, it’s hard to come up with the funds to pay someone to do this. Who else has been in this crazy catch-22? Do you know someone else who has been in this situation? How did they handle it? How do you choose the right person to be able to do this?

I’m determined to make this business as big and profitable as possible – someday my goal is to sell it (altho the thought of selling my baby is scary!) These are all signs of growing pains of a healthy business. If you have advice or resources to share, I’m open to suggestions!

Thanks for letting my pour my heart out and share what’s up behind the scenes.



What’s In Your Soapmaking Pot Today?

I belonged to a soapmaking forum ages ago (well, I still do but rarely, if ever, visit any longer). One of my favorite threads was a weekly “What’s In Your Soap Pot” thread, where any and all would post what soaps they were making. It was so inspirational – I was in awe of those full-time soap makers who listed an endless list of fabulous soaps they were making. It would be weeks, if not months, before I’d make soap for my various few fairs and festivals I did back in those day. However, now that I do this as my full-time passionate gig…

Since January 1 I’ve made over 3,000 bars of soap prepping for my spring shows so far.

Those numbers even knock ME out! Happy day!

Today, I made another 700+! Today, in soapmaking history, I made batches of Sexy Woman, Sweet Cherry Blossom and Dazzleberry. I’ve still got some of the men’s line soaps to make (yes, I’ve created a men’s line called Handsome Devil Sundries!)

Not to mention the new booze-themed “On The Rocks” soaps made with salts!

Lots of stuff humming along. Have to prep and pack a bunch of soaps for wholesale orders in coming days…it’s all good.

And the house smells lovely, btw. 😉

~ Karen