Thursday, February 28, 2019

On Being An Obsessive Enthusiast

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Todd and I recently had a great discussion about something that we have in common with each other:  being obsessive enthusiasts of things / ideas / topics / subjects that we’re interested to learn more about.  And when I say learn more about… I mean spending a lot of time researching into the minute details of said subject.  His main interests involve science, technology, math, and music.  Mine are more varied and often involves DIY-ing something. 

I’ve always loved crafting and DIY since I was a little kid.  In fact you probably started following my blog for my scrapbooking, cardmaking, and papercrafting posts.  That has always been a big love for me, and while it is currently on the back burner, it doesn’t mean it can’t make a comeback someday.  But I have many many interests and actually researching into those interests is a big hobby of mine, LOL.  I absolutely LOVE being obsessive about something new-to-me and learning all I can about it!  My brain thrives on it and I love the stimulation it provides me.  I am definitely not someone that likes to have information fed or given to me.  I like to think through things myself, and my intensely curious mind will come up with lots of new questions that need to be answered.  I enjoy the PROCESS of learning and thinking, just as much as the end result of whatever it is that I make as a result of my research.

That’s why I get so annoyed at the comments section of DIY blogs.  Apparently my love of learning and thinking doesn’t apply to everyone.  I see so many intellectually lazy people who don’t want to think or experiment for themselves.  They will ask questions such as “what would the recipe for this be if I want to make 8 oz?”  I see this on DIY skincare and cosmetics blogs and YouTube a LOT.  And I applaud the blogger for anwering it as such:  “the formula is for 2 oz of face cream, so doing simple math can scale the recipe to 8 oz.”  :: slow clap ::  Do these people not scale recipes for food too??  When I read a recipe for making a meal, I make sure to see how many servings it is for.  And if it’s not the amount of servings I want to make, then I scale it to the amount I want to make.  For DIY things, I’ve created spreadsheets such that I can put the original formulation in, calculate the percentages used for each ingredient, then put in the total amount I want to make, and my spreadsheet will calculate the new amounts for each ingredient.  It’s a simple concept!  To me, the joy is in the process, not just in the end product.  I don’t want someone else to tell me EXACTLY how to do it.

Sorry about the soapbox.  I guess what I’m trying to convey is that I really get a lot of enjoyment out of learning, processing, and thinking.  I’ve told Todd before that if I hadn’t become an accountant & financial analyst, I probably would have been in science.  I actually have a bachelor of science degree in Psychology and did research for a professor in college.  I love to be methodical in research and in examining what would happen in different scenarios. 

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An example of this is making lip balm with the perfect (to me) consistency.  I knew I wanted to use coconut oil, avocado oil, almond oil, and beeswax.  But what percentages of each would yeild the best consistency?  What would make the lip balm not too hard, not too soft, emollient yet stays on your lips and doesn’t slip off?  After doing research, I knew that beeswax provides the structure of the lip balm, and what the min and max percent usage should be to make an extremely soft or extremely hard lip balm.  So I methodically created several formulations of different beeswax to oil formulations and tried them out to come up with my ideal lip balm consistency.  I did the same thing with the lavender coconut lime body butter bar.  My first try the consistency was too soft, I adjusted the percentage of oil vs wax, and came up with a much better consistency.  I don’t want to take someone’s word for a formulation… I want to test everything myself!

So what happens when you take different percentages of these main ingredients

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and mix them together with scent and micas, and then put them into water?  How does the skin feel?  How strong or weak is the scent?  How well does it bubble/foam?  How does the color mix look together in water?

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And after some experimentation and I was satisfied, then this formulation became the Unicorns & Rainbows Fizzy Bath Parfait.

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Honestly, the reading, thinking, formulating, and testing part of this is the BEST part.  And the making.  I really do enjoy the process of coming up with something beautiful, useful, and fun.  I guess I’m a proud obessive enthusiast! 

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Monday, February 25, 2019

The Sky is Always the Bluest After The Rain

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We’ve had a LOT of rain the last few weeks in San Diego.  Last week we even had hail.  There’s been tons of snow in the mountains near us, only an hour away.  But on Saturday Todd & I went for a walk at the coast and it was the clearest as it gets in San Diego, which is very clear and very blue!

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It always makes me feel so great when we walk by the ocean.  It makes me feel super grateful to live here.

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On the making front this week, I made a whipped shea butter body butter, just for experimenting with ingredients and formulation.  It’s made with shea butter, safflower oil, isopropyl myristate (to cut the oily feel and make it feel smooth), vitamin E oil, and lemon, orange, and grapefruit essential oils (but not at the amount that would cause photosensitivity).  It feels and smells great. 

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I also made 25 candles for a custom label order.  I’ve never made 25 candles at once before, so I timed myself every step of the way so I could see how efficient I could be, ha ha.  This was the “prep all the glass jars and wick them” stage.

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This was 2.5 hours later, after pouring all the candles.  They’re setting/curing.  They are scented in Sea Salt & Orchid and smell REALLY good!

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While I worked on this candle order, I discovered the “Songs To Sing in the Shower” playlist on Spotify.  It is soooo good!  I literally danced my way through the candlemaking, LOL.  So joyous!

My nephew Andrew has a channel on YouTube called “Rogue Films”.  He had a video he made go viral last week and he texted us to tell us.  (It has over half a million views now!) So Todd and Noodle watched the video together.  I guess it became some sort of meme?  I have no idea what the kids like these days!

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Speaking of Noodle, he is loving the sunshine that has returned to San Diego.

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Sideways sleeping on his infinity bed.

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Todd got to play Mozart and Mahler classical pieces with his musician friends on Saturday.  They get together from time to time to play together, just for fun.  I went and recorded a bunch of videos for him.

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Every time I hear him play, I’m in awe of his talent, but more so his hard work.  He practices piano a lot, almost daily, after dinner.  He also plays trumpet in a brass group at work during lunch on Mondays.  They are going to play songs from “The Greatest Showman”.  Which, by the way, we watched for the 2nd time on Saturday night.  It’s even better the second time around.  So now I’ve been listening to the soundtrack all day on Spotify today.

Todd continued to celebrate his birthday this weekend, because several of his “free birthday food” coupons were expiring.  On Friday night we went to Burger Lounge so he could get his free milk shake.

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Then on Sunday we went to brunch at Miguel’s Cocina so he could use his $10 off $30 birthday coupon.  They also gave him a free birthday mud pie and sang to him!

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I had the carne asada benedict and it was delicious.  But what I really go to Miguel’s for is their cheese queso dip with chips, LOL.

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I’ve been reading through Marie Rayma’s book “Make It Up”.  It is sooooo awesome!  I’m excited to try some of the formulas for DIY foundation, blush, lipstick, eyeshadows, etc.  The idea that I can custom make cosmetics for myself that matches my skin tone exactly, and also make colored cosmetics to my liking, is very exciting to me!  Especially since cosmetics is a category of products that’s marked WAAAAY up in retail sales, to pay for the marketing.  I have a feeling that fairly soon, I’m going to end up with lots of little jars of DIY makeup.  So fun!

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I have already talked about Atlas Market in a recent blog post, but I went there today and got our whole week’s produce for $8.74! 

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I got:

3.3 LBS of beets = $1.09
2.82 LBS of papaya = $2.79
3.87 LBS of naval oranges = $0.77
1.75 LBS of fuji apples = $1.21
1.9 LBS of green beans = $0.94
2 jalapeno peppers = $0.32
4 tomatillos = $0.48
Bag of bok choy = $0.85
2 bunches of cilantro = $0.29

Total $8.74

I think I mis-weighed some items, because it looks like I got way more than I needed.  I think the scales in the store may have been in kilograms, LOL.  But anyway, that means I could have only paid like $6 for all the produce that I needed.  That’s just incredible!  Seriously when I wheel the cart out of this place, I'm so giddy like I just stole some food! Local friends, you absolutely NEED to go to Atlas Market for produce and fruits!  It's an international market with a food hall, with emphasis on Korean and Persian food. Tons of other Asian and Middle Eastern food. They make announcements in English, Persian, Korean, and Chinese, LOL. In the food hall they have Korean fried chicken, which is soooooo good. And there's a Persian Bakery too. Basically I want to live there!

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Pacifica Grace Studio | Behind The Scenes #2

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Welcome to another “behind the scenes” look at my Etsy business Pacifica Grace Studio

After several months of researching and preparing, I started offering handcrafted bath & body products with the January release.  I've always loved trying out bath & body products at stores like B&BW, The Body Shop, and Lush, so it was a natural transition for me to start making them. 

Lavender coconut lime scented heart-shaped body butter bar, made with shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, vitamin E oil, and dried lavender buds.

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Another business change that I adopted coming into the new year is to have a set date for monthly product releases.  When I started my candle & wax melt business in Q4 last year, the business model was “made to order”.  Meaning I didn’t make the candles / wax melts until someone ordered it through my Etsy store.  The reason I set it up that way was because I didn’t know what the initial sales were going to be like, and I didn’t want to make a bunch of candles and not be able to sell them.  Holding inventory is one of the costliest line item in a business.  However, as I worked through November and December on making the orders when people ordered them, I realized that it was inefficient and time-consuming.  I couldn’t work in bigger batches and it was very time-consuming and inefficient to make one or two candles by order.  I had to get all my equipment out, set up, make the products, and clean up afterwards.  Then do it again if I got orders the next day, or the day after.  After experiencing that for two months, I decided that this was a very inefficient way to run my business, and brainstormed about changes during the holidays in December. 

Lemon Poppy Seed Soap

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I decided on the monthly product release business model, releasing products around the 15th of each month.  That way my work schedule isn’t at the whim of customer orders.  I planned out my month so that there are designated days for the different types of activities involved for my business:

  • Product planning & research
  • Inventory / supply tracking
  • Ordering supplies
  • Making the products (this occurs over several days)
  • Packaging and labeling the products (which takes a surprising amount of time)
  • Product photography
  • Listing products into my Etsy store
  • Writing & sending out monthly release newsletter
  • Processing orders
  • Packing and shipping orders (which again takes a surprising amount of time)
  • Financials (bookkeeping, cost analysis, sales analysis, etc.)

Batching up the activites has definitely helped to plan out my month better and even out my work schedule.  However, the conumdrum is now I have to try to predict how much each item would sell, and try to make about that many in my batches.  It is really difficult to predict still.  Sometimes I’ll make something with awesome ingredients and looks fantastic and I love it, but it doesn’t sell as well.  Other times something will sell out several hours after I send out my newsletter, thus I miss out on potential additional revenue.  I’m hoping that with more sales records that I’ll be able to better predict later this year.

Unicorns & Rainbows Fizzy Bath Parfait (fruit loops scented)

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About the newsletter.  After toiling on the social media front for a few months, I realized that when I post to FB or IG, I’m at the whim of the social media algorithms.  Most people don’t even see my posts.  I even paid for Facebook ads and nothing happened.  No sales from it whatsoever.  So it is a very inefficient and frustrating way to try to get traction.  So after I decided on doing the monthly release model, I decided on the newsletter format to announce the releases.  That way people who are actually interested can opt-in and the information would be pushed to them.  They are more likely to see it than on FB or IG, and they also can take purchasing action immediately through the links if they wished.  I also offer exclusive newsletter subscriber discounts as a way to thank customers for subscribing.  I think this has worked out pretty well both for me and for my customers.  If you want to subscribe, you can do so here!

Cocoa Butter Cashmere Whipped Body Mousse

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Unicorns & Rainbows soy ombre candle (scented in fruit loops)

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Many of the January and February release products have sold out, but there are still some products left.  You can take a look at what’s available currently in my Etsy shop

Pulling orders and prepping them for shipment.

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Shipments ready to go out

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Hope you enjoyed this “behind the scenes” look at my little handcrafted business!  It is a lot of fun, a lot of hard work, and a tiny fraction of what I used to earn at my corporate finance job, LOL.  But it is a labor of love and I’m enjoying it.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Winter In San Diego

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I hesitate to even call what we’re experiencing in San Diego as “winter”.  It is unusually cold and unusually rainy for SD, but really nothing as far as what a true winter is.  We moved from Ohio to San Diego in mid-December back in 1999.  I remember both of us exclaiming with glee that we were “skipping winter” from now on.  We still feel that way, and feel so fortunate to live in sunny San Diego.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  There’s plenty of wrong things with San Diego.  The traffic.  The lack of parking anywhere you go.  The crowds everywhere.  But boy, do we have year-round good weather, beaches, and great food!

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We watched a bunch of birds (pelicans?  we couldn’t tell from afar) nose-dive into the water for fish.  It was so cool!

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Todd bicycling in January on the coast.  In JANUARY.  At the COAST.  As he always says, “This ain’t happening in Ohio.”

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So, after we both recovered from being sick for about a week at the beginning of January, it was full steam ahead!  I started planning monthly release products for my handcrafted store on Etsy.  It was actually quite time consuming to plan out all the product releases for each product category from January all the way through June.  And then source the products and buy all the supplies and ingredients, and tools/equipment/packaging.  But it was also fun.  And FUN is why I’m doing this, because lord knows I’m making a mere fraction of what I was earning in my previous career in corporate finance.  Like tiny fraction… much less than minimum wage when you consider all the time I put into it.  But hey, it’s fun!  And I’m exercising my creative brain again.  I saved money for 25 years so I could quit and do something like this before I was too old.  So you know, here I am!

So far I’ve sold out of many things in January & February.  This is mainly because everything is handcrafted by me, in small batches.  I really can’t make big batches, because I don’t have big equipment.  And because I can’t really afford to have inventory sitting around not sold.  I’d rather miss out on revenue than have inventory sitting around unsold.  In January my best selling item was this 3 oz lavender coconut lime scented heart-shaped body butter bar.  It had a luxurious blend of shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, and vitamin E oil. 

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My February best seller that sold out pretty much overnight after my newsletter went out was the Cotton Candy Emusified Sugar Scrub.

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I will write a post later this week on behind the scenes at Pacifica Grace Studio

I started to exercise again, only to be foiled by my “busy-ness” getting my product releases out.  I plan to make it a priority, but it really needs to be scheduled and put on my calendar to make it happen.  I always feel so GOOD when I exercise though!  I was watching an exercise video and following along.  Noodle claims he was exercising.  But look at him.  I don’t think so!

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One day a while ago, he begged for lap sitting so I picked him up and he sat on my lap. 

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I petted his head.  After a few minutes he suddenly jumped off and ran away.  Thus the ensuing text conversation with Todd, LOL!

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Noodle loves Todd.  Noodle will hang out with Todd, even if it’s on Todd’s keyboard.

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We have discovered a few new-to-us places to eat around town that I’ll share.  I think if you’re local you’d enjoy them too!

On Sunday 1/20 we went to lunch at Bluewater Boathouse Grill on Coronado.  We had never been before.  I had seen the crab BLT sandwich on Beach Bites with Katie Lee on the Cooking Channel, so I knew I had to try it!

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Todd got the salmon sandwich.

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We also really enjoyed the sourdough bread loaves that they bring to the table!  So good!  After lunch we headed to the Coronado Playhouse to watch our friend Cecile in the musical “Guys And Dolls”.

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It was such a fun show!  She was so good in it.  We love community theater, especially when our friends are in it!

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After the show, we went to Moo Time for our favorite ice cream.  They had both salted caramel AND apple pie flavors!

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The 2nd restaurant that we discovered and have been to TWICE since the new year is Taste of Hunan.  This is the real deal Chinese food!  As in “the only non-Chinese people in the restarant are accompanied by Chinese people” authentic.  The first time we went, only Todd and one other person was not Chinese.  But the food is so good! 

We’ve had a noodle soup with pork and pickled veggies.

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Sauteed Chinese greens.

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Spicy stir-fried Tofu

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Chicken noodles

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And both times we had the pork and chives dumplings because they’re so delicious!

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The third place we discovered last weekend is Atlas Market in Poway, next to the Target.  It’s hard to describe it, but it’s like an international market with a food hall, with emphasis on Persian and Korean food!  We tried out Korean fried chicken at Furaido Chicken and it did not disappoint!  I’ve never had Korean fried chicken before, but the coating is rice flour instead of wheat flour.  And they fry it twice, so there’s no fat left in the skin and everything is crunchy!

I got the glazed garlic soy chicken and I deemed it delicious!

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Todd got the red savory glaze.  He thought it was ok, he liked mine more.

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They give you gloves to eat it with your hands, ha ha.

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There’s also a Persian bakery there and we tried out these filo-dough pastries with savory beef and onion in them.  Delicious!

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In February we celebrated both Todd’s birthday and Lunar New Year.  We drove in the rain up to LA to visit my dad and Shelly.  It was fun and I gave them some of my handcrafted candles, wax melts, soaps, lip balms, and body butters.  I forgot to take photos though. 

For Todd’s birthday celebration (he took the day off the day before his bday), we went to URBN Pizza in North Park, one of his favorite pizza places. 

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Afterwards we went to Extraordinary Desserts, where we got a tres leches chocolate cake to share.  And Todd got an entire Truffe Frambois cake to take to work the next day to celebrate his birthday with work friends.

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So Todd’s birthday this year was smack on Chinese New Year.  And it is the Year of the Pig.  Todd is a Pig in the Chinese zodiac.  It’s every 12 years.  So if you do the math, you know how old he is!  My dad’s wife Shelly got Todd this popcorn-eating pig.  It’s Todd exactly for this birthday, the Year of the Pig!

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On this actual birthday, we went to Phil’s BBQ for dinner to celebrate him.

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Later that week, I got invited to a Lunar New Year dim sum lunch with some of my friends from my ex-job.  I found this festive Chinese jacket that my mom gave me YEEEAARS ago and wore it.

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The dim sum was so good, and it was so good to see those friends again.

The jacket.  My mom.  I miss my mom so much.  My mom passed away from cancer on Valentine’s Day in 2007.  Todd and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anymore, because not only is it a Hallmark holiday, it is also too bittersweet of a day for me.  I miss her every day of course, but even more on Valentine’s Day and her birthday. 

This catches up from the holidays to the present!  On Thursday I will write a “behind the scenes” post of my Pacifica Grace Studio handcrafted business.

Thank you for being here still and reading, by the way.  I know I haven’t been the most consistent blogger recently.  I’ve definitely regretted not documenting my life and forgetting all the details.  I love writing and I love to share, so hopefully I can get back on a regular track for blogging.  I put it on my calendar!  Smile

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