Lora's Beauty Website


Visit the online store!

Lora's artisan soaps, an affordable luxury.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Thousands of Bars of Soap

"Big Order Request" read the subject line and innocently I clicked on the message. It was from a lady in California that I've done business with for many years. Her usual order of around 20 bars a month was about to increase.... "Would you be able to make 5200 bars by June 10th?" the email continued. The current date was March 14.

As she had a certain price in mind, I did what seemed logical to me and started figuring the costs involved in creating one bar of soap in the shape she requested. As it worked out, I could make a bar of soap and sell it to her for the price she wanted to pay and still make a profit but I also needed to know whether I could do 5200 of them in under 3 months! Needless to say, another spreadsheet was created.

As it turned out, yes I could make that many by June 10th however, I had a vacation planned in May and I still work full time at another job! I replied to her email that I'd guarantee delivery of 3000 bars by June 10 and maybe more but I didn't feel comfortable committing to 5200. She responded back saying she'd work with that.

So began my 'Soaping Spring' of which I'm still deeply in the throes of.

Besides the cost and time involved in making that much soap, there were logistics that needed to be worked out. Specifically, where was I going to store roughly 800 bars of soap at a time while they were curing for several weeks?

I had a curing rack that Jeff made years ago that I use for current production requirements; it holds a little over a hundred bars.

To make up the difference I needed something else and quick. Perhaps, all those planter boxes my son made last summer that were still in my laundry room could help?

Drastic measures were needed so after I set aside a couple for my garden projects, Jeff and I began converting the rest of the planter boxes to curing racks by stapling chicken wire to the tops.

In order to meet the production goals, I also needed to make 4 batches of soap a day or one quadruple batch. This required a larger bowl or bucket. It also required 7 more molds. I had one so I needed 3 more for my quadruple batch plus 4 more in case, on the weekends, I made two quadruple batches. A trip to the hardware store for mold making supplies was in order.

Me, staring at my supplies.
Finally, I needed supplies. I need gallons of olive oil, castor oil and rice bran oil, pounds of coconut oil, cocoa butter, and lye, and many, many ounces of essential oils AND I didn't want to pay shipping costs which would drastically cut into my profits.

Luckily I knew of a handcrafter's supply shop about a half hour drive from my house. A phone call to the store and a Saturday trip down the freeway to pick the supplies up and I was off to the races! Remind me sometime to blog about how mind blowing and nerve racking it is to drive on I-5 and over a major river with 50 pounds of lye in your trunk. On second thought, let's just forget about that....

Safely back home, I've been making soap everyday now for two weeks. I'm on schedule and under budget and happy to report that my initial calculations were very close to correct! I've still got another 6 weeks of soap making to go to meet my goal but I should have all 3000 bars complete by the time I leave for vacation!

I'm not sure whether this is a one time order or will be something ongoing. After I come up for air, I'll ask. For now, I'm heads down into soap making!

I had the online store pretty well stocked before I started this project so don't be bashful, you can still order soap!










Friday, March 15, 2019

Bonsai and Pots

Last July we made our first trip to the Salem Art Festival in Salem, Oregon. It was at that wonderful festival that I purchased my pre-bonsai Chinese Elm tree.

A pre-bonsai has been partially trained and is significantly less expensive than a true bonsai. A pre-bonsai, therefore, is a great way for a beginner to learn the art of bonsai. Since I am the definition of beginner when it comes to bonsai, I purchased this book.



Purchasing the tree in the middle of summer meant there was little I needed to do besides keep it watered and fertilized. Much to my delight, I kept the tree alive and growing over the hot summer we had last year. When the weather started to turn in late fall, I moved the tree up next to the house where it sat until recently.

Over the long winter I researched new pots for transplanting the tree. Rather than purchase just any bonsai pot though, I decided to ask my friend at work if he could make one. I've mentioned Bob's work before as he's made just about all my plates and bowls (pictured). Lucky for me, he bought a kiln last fall and can now churn out the pottery any time I want he wants!

Just look at the wonderful pot he made for my tree! His work is seriously beautiful.

Alas, winter in Portland this year seemed to really hang on and we had multiple late February - early March snows, however, the weather did finally seem to turn the second weekend of March and I was more than ready to try my hand at re-potting my bonsai.

Armed with my book knowledge, I started by preparing my new pot, covering the bottom holes with some garden fabric I had already.

I then fed a couple 6-8 inch pieces of wire through the bottom small holes and through the fabric. Since the typical bonsai pot is rather shallow, the wire is used to tie the roots to the pot.

Now the fun part; I get to use my tiny tool set! After cutting around the edge of the pot the tree was in, I carefully lifted it out and used the tiny rake to gently untangle the roots.

It became more evident once the roots were untangled as to where to cut. In this case, I cut all the lanky, long straggler roots then rinsed the root ball.



I then placed the root ball in the pot around the wires. Aesthetically, it's important to place the tree slightly off-center in the pot. Next, I gently twisted the wires securing the tree to the pot.

Finally, I added soil to cover the tiny exposed roots and watered, waiting to fertilize until the growing season starts in earnest.

Some bonsai trees require very specific soil, in the case of the Chinese Elm, I was able to just use a basic bonsai soil mix.
I gave my tree a little trim to the branches and placed it back  against the house to protect it until the fear of frost is over, hopefully soon! Time will tell on whether this re-potting was successful, fingers are crossed!

**Update** I'm happy to report, my bonsai re-potting was successful!

It looks so nice in it's new pot.



Friday, February 22, 2019

A Life Changing Purchase

I've been thinking a lot about stuff lately; stuff I own, stuff I want, stuff in the past I've had. I've been doing that because last week I put money down on a purchase that I think will be life changing.


I'll get to what I bought in a minute but after putting money down on it, I got to thinking about what stuff in my life I've had that has changed my life in a significant way.

I purchased a pressure cooker a couple years ago (I wrote about it here and here) and love cooking with it. It's changed how I cook some foods but I wouldn't call it life changing.

What THING have you purchased that has changed your life? A  car? The very best Mexican chocolate you've ever tasted? A book? A luxurious bar of goats' milk soap? --sorry, shameless promotion!

As I reflected on this and because of what I purchased, I realized that all the bikes I've owned in my life have been life changing. Not surprisingly the purchase I made last week was a bike!

This isn't just any bike though, this is an investment in the future of urban transportation; a cultural disrupter! I put money down on an ELECTRIC BIKE and I'M STOKED!

Ever since I saw the Vanmoof electric bikes several years ago I wanted one. I rode an electric bike in Italy, although it was more a large trike than a bike. Riding that trike though, was a blast!

A couple years ago when my non-electric commuter bike had a flat tire, I took it to the electric bike shop by my work to get it repaired. As it was being repaired I admired their bikes. The salesperson gave me a coupon for an hour free rental on a couple of the bikes. Later that summer I used the coupon and test rode an electric bike. I was hooked! Talk about exhilarating!

Electric bikes are typically placed into four categories. Class One electric bikes are pedal assist bikes, meaning they're not going to propel you forward unless you pedal. What they do is give you a little oomph to get up a hill or keep you moving faster than you would with out the assist. Their maximum speed is about 20 mph.

Class Two electric bikes come with throttles, Class Three allow you to reach a speed over 28 mph with pedal assist, and Class Four are mopeds or motorcycles.

My new bike is a Class One but the big difference between my new bike and the bikes I've test ridden is, well simply put, IT LOOKS COOL! Seriously cool. REALLY.  Watch the video and tell me you aren't smitten!



It also has a built in security alarm and lights, will go 90 miles on a single charge, and takes 4 hours to fully charge!

I put $100 deposit on my new bike but I won't get it until June or July. It will be mailed to my house in a box, fully assembled except for the pedals. I'll adjust the seat and handlebars, add the pedals, download the phone app (which is used to help lock and unlock the bike), and ride into the future!

I'll be sure to let you know what I think of the new bike along with plenty of pictures. Or, maybe I will love it so much I'll only break from riding it to eat, sleep, and charge it?

The bike is not cheap and I'll probably sell at least one of my other three bikes and probably even my car, which is seventeen years old, but life changing? No doubt about it.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Fireplace Doors Replacement Project

I have a quick and easy project to share that we completed last October. I neglected to share it back then because life got in the way and then the holidays, yada yada yada.

Anyway, if you have ever thought about replacing the doors (or adding some if you don't have any) on your fireplace, I hope this post gives you encouragement to do so because it's easy.

Upstairs fireplace
In our home, we have two fireplaces, the one upstairs which I converted to gas, already has fireplace doors on it, and the one downstairs in my son's bedroom which we never use.

Many years ago I removed the old doors that were on the downstairs fireplace to paint the brick and I never put them back (they were 1970's chrome and black doors that screamed 1970) only the screen was left in place. Since we never used the fireplace, I shoved something up the chimney to alleviate any drafts. Well, many windstorms later, whatever I shoved up there was gone and cold air was coming in and heat was escaping out. So, last October I decided to do something about it before winter hit. Naturally, I started googling 'How to replace fireplace doors?'

There are many videos on YouTube that document the process, but the take away is the doors are attached via a couple clamps to a lintel bar at the top (which if you're replacing a door this will already exist) and with two screws and brackets to the bottom of the fireplace.

Image from:
https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-install-glass-fireplace-doors
Here's a nice schematic that I pulled from a This Old House post that will walk you through the process and is worth a read.

Most doors that you purchase from a fireplace store, Home Depot or Lowes will fit openings within a specified range and will come with attached screens. You'll want to measure the height and width of the opening of your firebox then find a door that's size-range will fit.



In our case, I went with this door from Home Depot for $399.

I don't have a lot of pictures of the process but I've included a few pictures of what we were dealing with before the new doors and after they were installed.

Before was just a bare screen which was attached to the lintel bar with a couple clamps.

After removing the screen, we installed the new doors. Most doors come with insulation that is placed behind the top and sides of the doors.

This whole project took about an hour and a half to complete. Honestly, I don't know why I waited so long to do it.

The new doors look so much better and are definitely saving money on heating costs.

If you're on the fence about trying this project yourself, don't be. It really is easy and well worth the effort.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Countertops,Tile, Soap, and Life Today

I've been holding out on you. It may seem by the looks of my posts lately, that I'm not up to much. That is FAR from the truth though.

This holiday season I decided to branch out a little and participated in a Holiday Bazaar that was NOT affiliated with my day job. Dec 6 found me at the Madeleine Marketplace held at the Madeleine church in Portland. I'm so glad I did this bazaar! I met some great people, sold a lot of awesome soap, and even picked up a new contract for soap! Needless to say, next year I'm going to try and participate in a few more holiday bazaars.

Since then, I have been back to frantically replenishing my soap stock. I've made more Peppermint Ice, Cinnamon&Honey, Lavender Meringue, and Activated Charcoal soap in the past few weeks.

Speaking of the Activated Charcoal Goats' Milk soap, I've changed the mold and am now using the cube mold.

It looks so sophisticated and it's still packed with the same wonderful ingredients and scented with lemongrass and basil essential oils!

If you follow me on Instagram (click here if you don't), you may have noticed that I finally got the 'Shopping' feature working on my posts! Now when you see a photo of my soap, you can click the tag on the image and be directed to my website to order! I'm so glad to finally add this functionality to my business.

On another soap related note, I will need to raise my prices come the new year. I try very hard to keep my prices to a minimum and in the almost 10 years I've run my little soap business I've never raised the prices. Unfortunately, what with the cost of supplies going up and using inferior ingredients not an option, that's got to change.

So come January all soap bars go up in price by $1. Good news though, I will add a permanent special so you can order 5 bars for $25 which will bring the price back down to $5 a bar! I will also continue to offer Free Shipping on orders over $35. I will make this change to the website sometime in January when I have time, so get your orders in fast before the price goes up!

I know I've blogged a lot about my kitchen projects over the years (here, here, and here), but I've got another update!

I've been wanting a tile backsplash for ages but felt restricted by the way the counter tops went up the wall a few inches (see photo). Since the counter tops were over 15 years old and I am no longer crazy about the red color, I saved my money and got new counter tops!





I went with a Quartz in Cortina. Here's a small image.
LG Hausys Viatera 3 in. x 3 in. Quartz Countertop Sample in Cortina

Once the counter tops were installed, Jeff and I tiled the backsplash! I used Cloe wall tile from Bedrosians. Here's an image:



We installed the tile ourselves and this was the first tile job I've ever done. I'm so pleased with how it turned out!

There are a gazillion websites and videos (I watched most of them!) that show you how to DIY your own tile backsplash so I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert now and write about it.

Instead, I know you're waiting for the before and after pictures and here you go:








BEFORE (not bad...)


And After (with the new stove):
After

Love the new sink!
I even added counter tops to the hutch.
Before

After
As you can see, things have been busy around here!

I hope your 2018 was an enlightening year full of personal growth and compassion!

Here's to 2019 and all it has in store!



Friday, November 30, 2018

On The Rack and Other News

It seems this time of year finds me frantically replenishing my soap stock and this year is no different.

I sold out of the always popular Lavender Meringue at the holiday bazaar I participated in a couple weeks ago. I even have a couple back orders for it. Thankfully, I was able to make more and it should be fully cured and ready to ship next week!

Lavender Meringue is coveted not only for it's tantalizing scent (only essential oils are used to scent all Lora's Beauty soaps; never any fragrance oils) but also for the all-natural ingredients that go into it including a rich, moisturizing head of shea butter rich soap (aka the meringue.)

Also running low, but not completely out, is the very fragrant Honey Safflower bar. I've made this bar of soap from the very beginnings of Lora's Beauty without much change. Sometimes you get things right the first time!

And because I was in the soap making mood this past weekend, I made a new bar; Oatmeal Calendula. I plan to replace the Oatmeal Ginger with this bar.

Since colloidal oatmeal is added to both bars I decided that my oatmeal bar should be over-the-top skin healthy! So instead of ginger, I added calendula petals and instead of scenting it with cassia essential oil, I used spearmint and eucalyptus essential oils! If you have sensitive skin, this is the goats' milk bar for you!

Lora's Beauty is currently stocked with plenty of fine, crafted bars of goats' milk soap and these bars on the curing rack will be available next week, in time for holiday shipping!

Lora's Beauty ships free in the US on all orders over $30!

If you want to smell and handle the soap yourself before purchasing, I will be at the Madeleine Marketplace on Thursday December 6 from 2pm - 8pm. The address is 3123 NE 24th Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Stop by and say "hi", there's a free gift in it for you if you mention my blog, while supplies last.

I may be bias, but I can't think of a better gift for that hard to shop for person than a luxurious bar of goats' milk soap!



Friday, October 19, 2018

A Visit To Leach Botanical Gardens

Summer used to be my favorite time of year in the Pacific Northwest. When my son was in school we would plan vacations for the first week he was out so we would be home and in town for the majority of the summer. Once he graduated and we started vacationing without him, we planned our out of town trips in October.

Lately, with our summer days being routinely 90 degrees or more, autumn and particularly October, is looking like it's now my favorite time of year in Portland!

With beautiful sunny skies and 70 degree weather for the past week, we took Sunday to visit the Leach Botanical Gardens in SE Portland for the first time.

The garden has a rich history having been donated to the City upon the death of it's owners, John and Lilla Leach.

The gardens are free of charge to visit (at least we didn't pay and didn't see anywhere to pay.)

I've included a few photos of our visit. Enjoy!

.
Looking up to the tree tops and sky.

Although the garden was referred to as Sleepy Hollow by it's owners, the place reminded me of the Shire. I kept expecting to see Hobbits running around.









The sign says 'Ferns' but there's not a fern in sight here.






I had to sneak up on this dinosaur so not to scare it.

A droopy, dead sunflower marks the end of summer for sure.