Friday, July 3, 2015

How to Avoid Traffic Jams in Your Business

Your car is packed. Your destination is routed. You will be spending the next 6 hours on the highway. You're prepped and primed, ready for this adventure. Until you get on the freeway and it's a parking lot! What!!!!! Does everyone have the same idea that I do? 
That's what happened to us as we left for a week long R & R. Everyone was fleeing the Bay Area for the Fourth of July Weekend, just like us!!! Let me tell you, we do not do well sucking on car exhaust.  Knowing our goal and what general direction we needed to go in we found the path of least resistance and followed that path! And what we encountered, was well worth the additional THIRTY minutes (yes it took us a shorter time even with the stops we made) it took us to get there! We got to drive through the beautiful Sonoma/ Napa vineyards, discovered the Petaluma Creamery, and made the hubby happy by stopping off at the Lagunitas Brewing Company. 
This experience reminds me a lot of running your own business, especially in relationship with the advice that Donna Maria from the Indie Business Network gives. She stresses the importance of being your authentic self, creating your own path when it comes to your business and having a community of people to learn from. Because when you don't create your own path, you may wind up doing what everyone else is doing and you get stuck in traffic.  We as humans have an inclination get from point A to B. We often follow the "pack" because it's safe and sometimes it's easier to follow the person in front of you, than to do your own thing. But if you create our own path, you have experiences that you didn't expect. You might make a wrong turn, but you'll find your way again. And it is possible (stay with me on this one), you might actually have fun finding your own way!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

How to Deal with being Wiped Out

Image from: brainlesstales
Wiped out can mean lots of different things: being tired, run down, to 'everything' being taken away from you.  Today I experienced the latter, and boy was I on an emotional roller coaster.  I was scared, I felt lost.  I yelled, I got into arguments with my loved ones... why me?  But then after hours of should-of's, could-of's, I realized that I was perceiving that everything was being taken away.  I still had my family/friends, a shelter, and food. These three things being the most important things I could ever need or want.  And if these things were still there, what was really being taken away?  An object, an idea?  How did I make this realization you wonder?  Well....

1) Take a nap.  I knew that I wasn't making any decisions with a clear head.

2) Listen. By taking a nap, I was able to hear criticisms, or concerns with an open heart (not being defensive) and get feedback on what to do in this situation.

3) Stop and Ask. By asking myself, "What does 'everything' being taken away really mean to me?"  I was hearing what other's thought, but how did I define it?

Step three was a turning point in my day.  What matters the most is all around me.  What more can I need!

Thank you for reading my "vague" description of the day!  I would love to hear what you do when you've been wiped  out!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

When was the Last Time our Founding Fathers Took a Bath?

Every wish you were a fly on the wall to hear what the real conversations were about while these guys signed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution?  Every wonder how stinky the room was?  I do, probably because I'm a soap person.  But seriously, it had to smell pretty bad.  Hygiene at that time was A LITTLE DIFFERENT than it is today!  Getting clean in Colonial America meant 'sponging off' usually just the hands and face.  Those that had a more luxurious home, may of had a wash basin and pitcher.  An under shirt was used to conceal sweat that would stain the "fancy" fabrics these men probably wore.

If you needed to thoroughly wash (which was usually once a month) a wooden tub would do the job. However, it was an ordeal to prepare this bath.  The tub had to be dragged out, someone had to draw the water from the well and then heat it.  The towel and soap would need to be found. And the person would have to stop worrying about catching a disease, as it was commonly though that a clean body would attract illness.  In other words, dirt and your natural oils created a protective layer guarding against disease.

Then there was the soap making processes that was fairly tricky.  Soap making was left to the women.  They had to make lye and save enough oil to make the soap.  They needed 6 bushels of wood ash for the lye and 24 pounds of grease/oil to make one barrel of soap.  To make lye they added wood ash to a barrel and layered each addition with straw.  The straw would stop the ash from clogging as water was added every once in a while to it. The ash water (lye) would seep out of a hole at the bottom of the barrel.  The grease and lye was then added and cooked together to make a very soft soap that was used for monthly baths. The most challenging part was figuring out how strong the lye was.  To see if the lye was strong enough, they tested the lye on a potato.  If it perforated, it was strong enough!

So yes, that room was EXTREMELY smelly.  Maybe I wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall!  LOL


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Drinking Habits of Our Founding Fathers

As we all know, beer was safer to drink during colonial times than water was.  And it was a major dietary staple from the cradle to the grave.  Infants were fed it, and it was recommended to breast feeding mothers.  In the formative colonial years, beer was brewed at home and most households built a brewroom on the side of their house.  Hops grew wild in the forests around the towns, which was a huge plus for these homebrewers.  As currency was established in the colonies and trade was possible with England, taverns began to pop up.  Taverns were not just a place to get a drink, but to socialize and hold meetings.  The tavern actually became one of the most important meeting places a town could have.  And, many of the constitutional ideas were formed in taverns. (As we know, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence.  But did you know that he wrote it while drinking Madeira at his usual table in the Indian Queen Tavern in Philadelphia?)

But how do we really know that the founding fathers as a group drank a lot?  Well, believe it or not, there are records of their shenanigans.  In 1787, two days before they signed the Constitution, the 55 delegates to the convention went to a local tavern. According to the bill, they drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 whiskeys, 22 porters, eight hard ciders, 12 bottles of beer and 7 bowls of alcoholic punch.  They did have a reason to celebrate!!  And keep in mind, that may seem like a lot, but the average American at the time drank many more the times as Americans of today do. Getting drunk, but not losing control, was much more acceptable than it is today.

So there you have it!  As we celebrate our nation, don't forget to drink a beer ...  it's a tradition!

(Handbrewed Soaps is NOT endorsing getting drunk, just to celebrate... responsibly!)


Monday, June 29, 2015

Fourth of July Beer Themed Party Ideas

I love the Fourth of July!  Every year, our family goes to the Alameda Parade and watches the bands and community groups walk by.  I'm the "embarrassing" one in the family as I am always hootin' and hollerin' with each group that goes by.  I find it interesting that I'm only one of the few that does that, but that's another story.  After that, we usually go party hopping and find a good place to watch the fireworks in the evening.  This can be a hard task since often enough, the fog rolls in and seeing the firework display in any of the cities in the Bay Area is close to impossible.  That's our tradition, and I now you have yours!  If your tradition is to host a Fourth of July Party/ BBQ and are looking for a beer theme, well you've come to the right place.  Here is a collection of ideas that may inspire you!
Have a Safe Fourth of July.  Please let us know of any DIY beer themes you come up with, we would love to hear about them! Cheers!

Beer Bottle Labels:
Buy and Download from this great etsy store

Download for Free Here

Idea's for Red Solo Cups:

Image found on

And don't forget the food:
Get the recipe
Get the recipe


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Follow Your Gut: Do What You Love

Image from
     Recently I got advice from multiple people that I should go back to teaching elementary school. They made very valid, practical, and 'safe' points about retirement, benefits, and a steady income that teaching would give me and my family.
     I have been strategically planning on leaving the teaching career over the past four years. I went from 100% employment, to 80%, to 50%, to finally 20%.  When I wasn't teaching, I was starting my soap company. Now, I'm at the crossroads that I have been anticipating, running my soap company full time, and what do I do, doubt myself and ask others what I should do.  And with this advice, I realize that my fear of the unstable is what has stopped me from starting my business! Yes, I'm scared shitless of a lack of a steady pay check and all the other things mentioned by those that are concerned about my choice. But what they (and I) have failed to see is that I've been planning this for four years!!    As Connor Franta says in his memoir, A Work in Process, (yes I am quoting a 22 year old YouTube star):

"In a world conditioned to follow the herd, mentality, playing it safe, a lot of people find it hard to stay true to themselves and accept the things particular to them. It's easy to give in to peer pressure and simply settle with what everyone else is doing, but never forget that each of us is different. You are your own individual, with your own particular set of dreams,desires, and aspirations...So know what you like, know what makes you happy, stick to your guns, and state it with confidence.  You'll walk taller, and as long as you follow your gut, you won't stray far in life." 

So here I am, following my gut! I'm looking forward to this new chapter!  What new chapter are you starting? How do you work through the doubt?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

3 Things I Learned from Having a 'Farm'

1 of our 8 Veggie beds
About six years ago, we jumped on the urban farmer movement that was sweeping the Bay Area.  We went on Urban Farm tours through out Oakland and Berkeley.  We (shall I say I) because obsessed with the works and teaching of Novella Carpenter, a woman who turned a vacant lot next to her West Oakland Apartment into a farm, complete with turkeys, chickens, and rabbits.  To me, she was a revolutionary...  doing something that Oakland really need at the time, to invest in FRESH FOOD in communities where there was a grocery store wasteland.  (There are parts of Oakland that do not have a grocery store within a 5 mile radius, but only convientient stores.  Many peoples menu choices are Cheetos, Soda, and Hungry Man's Frozen Dinners.)   One day, while driving on the freeway a couple of weeks after I finished Carpenter's Book GHOST TOWN FARM, I was very aware of the farming way of life.  Eric and I noticed a Toyota Truck that had hay flying out of it (this is a sight you NEVER see in the Bay Area.)  Of course I made Eric catch up to car wondering who/what farmer was in the middle of the city, and it turned out to be Novella Carpenter!  I had a heart attack at that moment and quickly found a piece of paper which I wrote:  I LOVE YOUR BOOK THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU!!! As we drove past her, I held this sign to the window.  I'm proud to say she saw it.  She gave me a thumbs ups and a huge grin!   It was a sign, we were going to create our own farm!!!  And ultimately, we would become happier, calmer people.

Plum Wine In The Making
And for the next four years, we had an 1/8 acre "farm" in our backyard completely with a plum tree, apple tree, fig tree and four chickens named Puffy, Cinderella, Bramha, and Lady.  We grew Quinoa, Zucchini, Fava Beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and even our own Omega- 3 rich chicken food.  I made homemade apple sauce, pies, plum jam, and plum wine.  I even started experimenting with making cold processes soap (yes I am self taught!), laundry soap, and Eric started brewing beer. And don't forget, both Eric and I were both full time teachers as well.  We learned a lot about farming and ourselves.  Here are the top 5 things we learned about have our own 'farm.'

1) Don't Believe Everything You Read:  One of the biggest reason this city slicker started an urban farm was because everything I read (books, blogs, how-to's) painted a picture that by having a farm, and living sustainably would simplify my life and the life of the community around me.  I would let go of my worries, find inner peace, and heal a community problem of lack of fresh food in our community. Was I a little nieve?  HELL YES I was...  Maybe on Saturday morning I found peace, but that was probably because I wasn't around 30 kids.

2) Running a Family Farm is Hard Work:  Don't get me wrong, gardening, cooking, and collecting eggs where very much a stress reliever, but not so much around report card time. There was a lot to do.  We had to get up in the morning and water everything and collect eggs.  And don't get me started about chickens...there was chicken shit EVERYwhere.  They dug up my artichoke plants (which at that point... if the neighborhood skunks got them for dinner...  good for the skunks!) I had so much zucchini, and lettuce that I couldn't give it away fast enough (we left boxes of fresh food for people to take!) Processing Quinoa to get toxins out of it is no joke....  it took ALL DAY just to clean one cup of the stuff.  But the pies were good and plum wine would knock your socks off, I can't complain about that!

3) Giving Up is Not the Same as Knowing Your Limits:  This experience led me to a new found appreciation for the farmers of the world, their hard work, and their commitment to bringing people food. As the years went on in our little farm, the more responsibility it took on.  Eric and I were at the point, where it was becoming a full time job and needed to reconsider how we were going to keep up with all of this. Both of us have dreamed of a lifestyle such as this.  We talked (and still do) about owning 50 acres, but this experience taught us that right now, at this point in our lives, we were not ready for it.  To keep our sanity, we needed to scale back. We needed to get rid of those elements that were overwhelming and keep doing the things that only brought us joy!  So, we found a nice home for our chickens in the next city over.  We believed growing our own food is still a priority, but we only grew enough for the family.  And I made cold processed soap a priority (how I went from classroom teacher to running my own soap business is a whole other story!), and Eric kept up with brewing beer on a regular basis.  Most importantly, we had faith that one day we would have our 50 acres.

Yes, one day...  What experience have you created in you life that have shown you your limits?

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