Monday, May 25, 2015

New Knitting!

In a rather unusual turn (at least, these days), I finished a pair of socks:

What I was thinking, photographing this on that blue rug, is beyond me...
Apologies - photo is tootally overexposed cuz my rechargeable flash batteries have died and I had to take this shot under the most absurd lighting conditions. They're actually a very rich blue.
They only took 7 weeks, not that I'm counting.

Angela does this thing where she knits herself a pair of socks in time to celebrate her birthday. I've decided to give this tradition a go cuz, really, I enjoy hand-knitted socks more than I ever could have imagined... That would be before Gillian dared me about a year and a half ago to make my first pair - despite my utter disdain for the homemade sock. Do you know I am the first one she dared?

I got a kick out of drying these babies on the stairs leading from the deck to the back garden. How often do I get to use the energy of the sun to dry anything??

The yarn is Koigu KPM which I originally bought to make these socks (along with some KPM in Ivory). Then I actually ready the Starry Starry Night pattern and decided it was never going to happen. OK - it's not happening till I'm retired. Who has that kind of attention to colour-work and detail - in freakin' fingering-weight yarn?!

I'm not exactly a knitting superstar these days - so I'm keeping my expectations realistic.

I do intend to return to my Custom Fit Basic Cowl, like this evening. Cuz I'd like kind of like it to be ready by this fall, you know? It has been on the needles since mid-Oct 2014, after all. On the plus side, the space-time continuum has not warped as a result of my inefficiency - and it's all ok. I have other sweaters.

Occasionally, you have to be grateful for the things that are very hard to take: If I were knitting at my old-style pace, there'd be no time to delve deeply into the world of handmade, natural skin care. I'm not going to suggest that pain is a blessing (fuck that concept), but it is a reality sometimes, and knowing it for what it is has vastly increased my ability to manage it - both because my threshold has shifted to embrace an encroaching level of awareness and also because the pain has been mercifully manageable over the past 3 months.

Peeps, I'll take it.

My self-devised hybrid of MELT, yoga (of a variety of types) and the Roll Model Method has been invaluable. My cycles have also shifted radically (lengthened by 6 days), providing a longer interval before the peaks and valleys of hormonal chaos. It's giving me time to shore myself up.

How I got from new socks to my period is beyond me. Honestly. Stream of consciousness much? It must be time to sign off, find some food and assemble an order. But do let me know what you think of (almost) birthday socks. Or handmade socks in general. I'm sure we've had this discussion in the past - but converts like to chat with the hold outs. :-)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

What's Up This Weekend?

At noon, I'm off to my local distributer to get batches of organic oils. This is always a trip and a half (Portlandia, peeps). Then, it's back home to make new Deodorant B, a couple of orders (thank you orderers!!), some new labels and some lip balm.

I've got to up my shipping game, so I'm researching the best mailer boxes I can find - in the smallest sizes to keep shipping low. This may increase shipping by a couple of dollars, but I think the end user experience will justify it. And on this topic, do you have any idea of how much kraft paper you can buy in bulk?! It's insane. And I'm also considering the best kind of bubble wrap.

Then, at 4, my friend, a graphic designer, is coming over to discuss thermal, water-resistant labels and what it's going to take to get me there. Natch, we're doing this with booze in the back garden.

Honestly, when I look at the list of things to figure out against the list of things completed, it's scarily inequitable. But there's nothing like crossing new things off a list to keep me motivated.

What's up with you this weekend?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Well-Deserved

My sister just won County teacher of the year! She teaches kindergartners, in a tiny, bucolic valley on the Tennessee border, under circumstances that only public school teachers (in America) can really understand. With few resources, she accomplishes the near impossible every day, and the kids she teaches gain unparalleled foundational skills to take them forward as they move through junior school. Trust me, if you heard half the stories about what it's like to teach in any public board, you would be amazed. And North Carolina teachers are the worst paid in all of the US - which puts them in company for the most under-valued educational resources in North America. It's a travesty. In September, she'll vie for Regionals (after spending the summer writing a report and being observed multiple times in a class room environment). If she wins that round - and that would be a feat! - she could win State teacher of the year. And then, y'all know, it's on to the Nationals.

My sister has a will of steel, unflagging energy (though it takes a toll) and tremendous integrity so I'm confident she's going to take this all the way.

Given how tirelessly she works, for so little recognition, it's a heart-warming acknowledgement. Please do join me in congratulating her.

Yay Allison!!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Small Business Chronicles: What's to Love?

Let me just say that having a small business is serious fun. This is in no way mitigated, as far as I'm concerned, by one's relative inexperience or non-full-time status. It's a hell of a learning curve and work, work, work, but if you're one of those people who never sits still, you might as well do something challenging. There is NO shortage of brain gymnastics when it comes to this activity, particularly when the lever is one's own hand-made product.

There are some boring parts on the business scene, so naturally I'll gloss over those. (Yes, they involve spreadsheets.) This post is about the aspects which are most fun. If one's business is a metaphor for oneself (and I'm not saying it is), I'm a serious extrovert. (Actually, I am a serious extrovert.)

My extroversion has facilitated things tremendously. In the broadest sense, I love introducing people to terrific things that I've discovered. I have always loved doing this. I mean, I started a freakin' blog so I could get the word out to people I didn't even know - and I'm still doing it 8 years later (though happily now I do know many of you). With this biz, I'm simply introducing people to things I've made. Things I can vouch for. Now I can align my quest for quality and value with my creative spirit. And peeps, it's a TRIP.

I've always wanted to work in a shop (strange, I realize). Not a bland shop, of course, but the kind with treasures. I'm that lady (browsing) who somehow ends up selling you yarn at the yarn store and lingerie at the lingerie store, the one who tells you that you can do better in those blue pants that don't taper quite so much at the ankle. Having a shop - even a virtual one - is an opportunity to enrich the consumer experience, and that activity is utterly enjoyable.

Another thing I love, though I never would have imagined this, is the imperfection of it all. I'm a newbie and - in the way I never judge a novice for his or her relative inexperience - I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt. I've decided to undertake this as if it were a craft, an extension of myself. I'm ok with evolution. Don't get me wrong - I strive for perfection in everything (even though the experts say it's a bad idea. What can I say? I'm a St. Clement's girl.) But perfection is unattainable. On the flip side, evolution is inevitable. My goal is simply to learn and improve - and to provide excellent product that appeals to purchasers, of course. Theoretically, there's no end to this project, just betterment through experience. (Note to everyone: Krissie of 15 years ago would never have had this perspective. So let's give a shout out to age. It's living those 15 years that's shown me what I can achieve in 15 years!)

My third fave element of the business process is refinement (dare I say, curation) of the collection. It's really creative and the grain of every new idea is entirely spontaneous. For example, when I started CURIO, Serum A was the keystone. I sensed I had a winner and it is my most popular item, so far. Having said this, I would never in a zillion years have imagined that Deodorant A was going to give the serum a run for its money. Deo A was developed organically (no pun intended!), almost accidentally, in discussions with my mother. And man, am I glad I went on that conversational journey.

Over the course of the last 3 months I've had a number of people (aka guys) ask me about creating a Deodorant with "manly scent". In truth, I feel that Deodorant A is unisex - I used lavender and frankincense for a reason, after all. However, apparently guys feel that "manly scent" is something like the woods. Full stop. And really, who doesn't love the woods? So, you know what? I'm going to start making Deodorant B (the one with cedar - and some other goodies to, maybe, remind one of pines and lakes - but in the most delightful and original way). It'll be a special edition product - made specifically for the askers - unless it takes off. Let's give it a go and see what happens...

On the topic of Serum A, the one you know from the shop is not actually Serum A, the first. It's Serum A, the second. The first was made specifically for my mega-oily skin (an outlier perhaps, or maybe not) with organic jojoba, not rice bran oil. I also used a different ratio of oils and different essential oils. Short story: While the rice bran version is exceedingly moisturizing and awesome for dry/mature skin, it's not best for me - at least not in summer. You'd be amazed by how efficiently the jojoba version absorbs into oily skin. It's pretty illuminating. Natch, this has compelled me to reconsider that the reason most lines sell a range for oily skin and another for dry skin is cuz these skin types have very different needs. I mean, I know this. As such, it's just sensible to offer Serum B (really, it came first, but let's not confuse things) for the oily-skinned like me. This one will be a continuity product because I want the option to wear both and maybe you (or your daughter or your mother or your brother) will too.

At any rate, I know I've veered a bit into the weeds, but the point is that there are always opportunities to consider how to make things better or to make new things or to package them in new ways to best suit the client. Cuz in the end, it's really only about the client.

A business is like a puzzle, a machine with moving pieces. Extroversion is the lubricant. Refinement is the maintenance. And being receptive to whatever comes, allows for lessons-learned and inevitable improvement.

But man, those spreadsheets are a bitch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Make Your Own Cologne

Have you noticed this whole mountain-man beard uprising? I have to be honest. I don't get it. Of course, if one wants to wear a beard, one should absolutely feel free. If one wants to pair it with Levis and a plaid shirt atop a T shirt with a meaningful slogan, go ahead. If one enjoys multiple tattoos layered under that T, that's good too. The look is perfectly completed with a short espresso, in case you're wondering.

Gotta say, TO is riddled with guys who fit this description and it's all starting to seem so derivative (not to mention unkempt). I prefer the metrosexual thing, any day. I love an impeccably-tailored slim suit with a crisp shirt (patterned natch) and a contrast tie. But then, if I were a guy, that's the look I'd be working.

My husband, who had a close beard for many years - and it looked good - shaved it off one day when he finally decided it was more trouble than it was worth. My kid, who was 6 at the time, came downstairs, took one look at him and started shrieking. She then hid under the dining room table (not the most secret of locales) and proceeded to cry: What happened to Daddy??? Ah, those were the days.

My point is that there's no need for beard oil in this house. But have you noticed how you can find that stuff everywhere?? Every shop on Queen West is selling it. I do wonder if and how it works. It must, or all the plaid-wearing, mountain-beard guys would be scoffing at it. Does it soften the beard like conditioner would? Does it mitigate the scratchiness? (Note: The puffy beards are less scratchy than the cropped ones, so I wonder if it's even necessary...) Is it like face serum for the part of the guy-face with hair?

I don't suppose we're gonna answer these important life-questions in this post - though if you're a mountain beard-having guy who happens to be reading this (and I haven't totally put you off), please do let us know!

This is actually one of those Simpsons-style segues into my real topic - man cologne. Not sure if your SO likes to wear it or if he wears it for you. Personally, I love man cologne and I've been known to buy it and wear it happily. It's generally constructed from chyprous scents I love: citrus top notes, mossy mid-notes and resinous base-notes. I love a man cologne that's also confident enough to subtly highlight florals (neroli, anyone?). Scott, too, appreciates these fragrance qualities, perhaps from years of coaxing. (Mind you, I don't think that scent-preference is taught.)

He sees me making all the potiony things and occasionally says stuff like: What about something specifically for me? Oh, how plaintive. So, today I made him bespoke man cologne. After doing a scent-testing, to determine what he'd prefer, I tinkered and combined essential oils and came up with something so delicious that I made one for myself too!

In case you'd like to give it a go, here's what you do:
  • Make sure you have an appropriate glass container (10 ml). One with a roll on applicator is optimal but you can use a pump closure or a dropper. Note: Not a lot of guys like to use droppers, in my experience. You can find roller containers here. Plastic won't work.
  • You'll want to use jojoba oil as your base. You can use ethanol or vodka if you're making an alcohol-based fragrance, but that's the subject of another post... Oh, and if you wanted to go crazy, you could make a solid perfume. But again, one thing at a time!
  • You'll need the following essential oils: Cedarwood (Atlas), Ylang Ylang, Neroli, Orange, Cypress, Vetivert, Frankincense. Don't cheap out on these cuz when it comes to scent, you get what you pay for. Neroli is particularly expensive. Consider finding a place that sells a 3-10% dilution in jojoba. This may still be of very high quality, but the bottle will be affordable. Plus, neroli is so intense, uncut, that it's sometimes hard to appreciate its awesomeness until you dilute it.
  • Experiment with your preferred ratios. I try to balance the low notes (vetivert, cedarwood) with the mid notes (ylang ylang, frankincense and neroli) and the high notes (orange, cypress). Let's not get too prescriptive... Use 35 drops of EO in total. No, it's not "accurate", drops of different EOs will be of slightly different sizes. But every bottle you have will provide its own basic drop size, from which you can extrapolate. You're making this "to smell". When you've got a combo you love, it's done.
  • It's as easy as adding the EOs into the bottle (in your preferred ratios) and then topping up the mixture with about 9 ml of jojoba oil. Of course, finding your special sauce may take time. Don't be afraid to throw out the EO mixture and start again. And write down how many drops you're using in each mixture. Cuz you'll forget in 3 minutes.
Note: If you do throw away the mixture and decide to start again, only wash out the container if you're prepared to let it dry completely. Water droplets in your bottle will corrupt the oil mixture and it will turn into a bacterial soup. You want this mixture to be entirely anhydrous - without water. I've been known, when experimenting with ratios for myself, to just discard the not-perfect EO mix, making sure to get rid of 99 per cent of the liquid in the container, and to start again - unless I'm using different oils on my next try. In that case, you've got to use a new bottle or one that's entirely clean and dry.

You may find that your final cologne smells very different on you than in the bottle. It's just like when you buy alcohol-based perfume at the store... Your biochemistry is highly engaged in the wearing process, so you may want to vary your formula once you've worn it for a while. For example: Maybe your skin gobbles up vetivert, leaving too much top note. I find that, in my formula, I need more of all the EO drops, because I seem to eat up all EO scents quickly.

Hopefully you'll give this a go because it's totally fun and impressive for your giftees. If you do try it, let me know. I want to hear all about it!

Today's questions: Have you made your own fragrance? If no, would you? Do you like the manly scents? Peeps, let's talk!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Rabbit Hole Is Deep

On reflection, there are three reasons I make things:
  • I honestly believe that I can make them well, to suit myself specifically (aka The Conceit).
  • I am slightly obsessed with the platonic ideal of the DIY crafter (aka The Artist).
  • I have this perspective that, if I can make it, why would I pay someone else to (aka The Craft Fallacy).
Intriguingly, I have one more philosophical reason - abstractly intertwined with my off-the-grid Krissie alter ego: In the apocalypse, I'm going to be the one living high on the hog (kale?!) cuz I can get peeps their socks and face serum. Of course, I mean this tongue in cheek. What I'm saying is that applied knowledge is power.

There are many holes in my arguments (hilariously, I initially wrote the word "wholes"), not least of which when it comes to the Craft Fallacy. Yeah, I can make all the things, but in many instances, there is NO way I can do it more efficiently than a commercial business making something in volume.

Apparently, this little inconsistency is of no mind to me.

Enter: Handmade Shampoo and Face Cleanser. Note to reader: It ain't gonna be "natural".

Here's what I use now:
  • Herbal Glo Shampoo: I know - the branding is hideous! but the product is Canadian, very effective for me and M and it's affordable, given that my kid goes through it like water. I also like the conditioner. I've used this regularly for the last 20 years - because the ingredients are pronounceable and vegetable-sourced. OK, I've really used it cuz it works and I can afford it. But it definitely appeals that it's on the natural end of the spectrum. Of course, I switch it up on occasion, but I'm a creature of habit.
  • Avene Cleanance: Oh, there is nothing pronounceable about this formula except the special Avene spring-water. I mean, it's blue. But it works exceedingly well on oily skin - and on acne-prone, teenaged skin. I'm no apologist. It works. I'm buying it. It's also Canadian.
Let's address the elephant in the room. I'm not the girl who's going to go all crazy on your ass when it comes to surfactants. I have the oiliest skin you'll ever meet. You know how the super-hairy ladies go on about their leg treatments and the super-sweaty ladies go on about their antiperspirant needs. I am the super greasy lady who carries around powdered face blotters in every purse.

I'm three weeks from being 45 years old and I cannot go 2 days without washing my hair because it turns into a grease-ball.

Please don't suggest that I just need to do things differently to get the oil under control. I'm cool with the oil. It's why I'm going to look 15 years younger than my actual age for, like, ever. I have nice, unblemished skin. I'll try that "wash your face with oil" thing when I have 6 weeks to acclimate in the privacy of my own home because walking out of the house like a grease-slick is just not attractive.

Would I prefer not to contribute to the decline of our world by using formulas that foam? Absolutely. But that's when I remind myself that I don't own a car and I almost always take public transport or I walk. I recycle everything. I reuse paper towels. Kind of puts my dime-sized amount of daily soap into perspective.

Feel free to be horrified, but I'm actually as excited by the idea of mixing hard-to-pronounce chemicals as I am by the idea of mixing beautiful, natural organic oils. Why? I like chemistry! I'm that kid whose mind was blown in grade 7 Biology when she had to do that kitchen experiment assignment that turns out to be a one-pan chocolate cake. I don't judge the things I'm mixing. I mean, I research them and make sure that they're not harmful - even if they aren't "natural". But peeps, I use these chemicals already. Everything is a chemical and when you need the ones that cut grease, well - have at it, I say. I don't want to be that meat-eater who won't kill her own dinner.*

I'm thrilled at the prospect of making cleansers that do the job for me with a minimum of surfactants and hard-to-pronounce things. I want to add neutraceuticals and essential oils. I want to fool around with the ratios to maximize hydration - even as I need to keep the grease at bay.

So stay tuned for more on this. (You can roll your eyes now.)

*Alas, I am most definitely that meat-eater who won't kill her own dinner. And for this I am an apologist.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

I Don't Know if this Counts as Doing Something

This weather is turning me into a crazy-person. It's so fantastic that I feel like I'm actually on holiday - like somewhere fantastic - and it's bringing out my spend-instinct.

Having said that, I do love the spend-instinct - especially in others. Last night, out at my friend Hilly's for dinner, she had so much fun looking at my new loot and listening to my shopping exploits, I wanted to charge her a little fee :-) She told me the fee was dinner, and to get the cheese plate from the dining room table.

I decided to go out mid-aft, just to look around in the shops and to people-watch. My, was the watching good. There were chic ladies in embroidered caftans (like we live in Palm Beach), trophy ladies in bandage dresses (like we live in Miami Beach), young ladies in bikini tops (um, seriously? like we live in freakin' South Beach?). It's so bizarre when the weather warms up here. People lose all sense of proportion. And by that, I do mean that most of those outfits were too small.

I felt so dull wearing jeans, a stripey top and and a black waterfall sweater. Sure, I was over-dressed for the heat (I was going to be out well into the night so I needed to plan for the temp drop), but I default to outfits for October. Note: I did wear my orange bag and my Arche sandals (purchased in Eur last summer) and, by nightfall, I looked entirely adequately mid-May. Other Note: I realize that those sandals are hideous in that photo (see link above), but on one's foot, they transform. I swear! Plus, it's like walking on a cloud.

Anyhow, can you blame me for feeling drawn towards Anthropologie? That place is like summer in 5000 square feet. Every time I ask someone at work where she got her new, cute item X, and she replies "Anthro",  I'm intrigued. But I never purchase at this shop. It's too boho for me. The set up is too crowded (so a lot of cute items aren't readily visible). It's also, dare I say it, it's a bit "young". I mean, how many shoulder buttons and sleeve ruffles can a girl wear to the office?

Mind you, the shopping goddess was on my side yesterday. Also, I was in it for the crazy so I tried on everything in the store. May I just reiterate, this place would be much better if it took a minimalist approach. Garments inevitably look crappy when there's no white space.

I got these pants (which cost more in Canada):


They're so NOT me. But I'm getting sick and tired of what is me. (You know how that happens...) So I'm branching out.

I also got this top, which totally is me:


I bought it in black, because almost-white grey makes me look dead. But this colour shows off the beautiful line and drape of the garment.

Then I ambled over to the Gap - cuz who doesn't want to mingle with the entire universe, frenzied by the chance of half-price shorts, all at once? Note to People: They're cheap to begin with. Don't smack into me like it's Filene's basement on Boxing Day!

I found this dress, on sale for 30 bucks??:


Weirdly, I'm drawn to black right now - a shade that rarely impresses me. What does impress me about this dress - and frankly it looks better on me than on the gorgeous lady above - is that it highlights all of my slender toned bits (neck, shoulders, arms, legs) and you cannot begin to guess the state of my lower abdomen. Or whether I've eaten BBQ in the last 2 hours. Plus dessert. It also looks great with skinny jeans underneath - a look we have more use for in Canada, than that depicted above, at least for 9 months of the year. Also, in case you're thinking - wow, that's short! - that woman is approximately 8 inches taller than me. But it is a short-ish dress. Show off your legs, ladies, that's what I say. One other thing, in case you're interested in buying it online, the sleeves are quite snug. I bought a small, after trying an XS. The two sizes fit the same in the body (hello sack!) but the arms were notably snug in the shoulders and arms in the XS.

When I took it out of the bag to show Hil, she was momentarily horrified and could not believe that there might be a chance in hell that it would look anything other than horrid. (I will warn you that it looks ridiculously bad on a hanger. Those are the things I secretly enjoy trying on. There's so much potential for excitement.) But I put it on and she was shocked - in that way I love to shock people - and agreed that's a perfect basic.

I followed this up with a cocktail at the Holt Renfrew restaurant. I do love sitting at the bar and chatting with the peeps. I had this hilarious-named fresh juice called Holt's Happiness, which is marketed to rejuvenate and "youthen" the drinker, what with its composition of beet juice, acai, grapefruit etc. Naturally, I directed them to booze it up; with a bit of vodka and Cava it was a delight! I felt both youthened and aged at the same time! Gotta love a neutral.

After a bit more window shopping, I picked up some double-cream blue cheese, hopped on the subway and went to Hil's. And what a beautiful evening it was.