Introducing National Exfoliation Month: Our Loss is Your Gain (and Other Marketing Cliches); But Seriously… It’s a Great Time to Exfoliate
While we mostly consider ourselves to be purveyors of the finest handmade bath and body products, we’re also marketers in a sense, in that we are selling you something. We’ve found ourselves with a bunch of excess exfoliating bars, so in the grandest marketing tradition, we have decided to invent a holiday. It was either that or lead with “whoops we made too much,” which seems cheesy, so National Exfoliation Month it is. However, it is a happy coincidence that we’ve got a lot of exfoliation products in late winter/early spring.
After all, it’s a great time for exfoliating.
Exfoliation is the process of renewing the skin by removing dead skin cells on the surface, reducing the dry, rough appearance that can accompany the uneven shedding of these cells. Not only can this improve the appearance of skin, it can also prevent problems by unclogging pores and reducing acne outbreaks by exposing oil trapped beneath old skin cells. In cold and windy conditions (like Ohio in late winter or early spring), exfoliation can allow lotions (like mine) to do their job more effectively by removing barriers to deeper penetration.
Exfoliation can be accomplished by either chemical or mechanical means. Chemical exfoliants, such as alpha hydroxy acids and certain enzymes dissolve the substances that bond the dead cells to your skin. Mechanical exfoliants physically remove skin cells with their scrubbing action. My exfoliating bars use this mechanical principle - scrubby substances like salt and soy granules lift dead skin cells, while fluffy lather washes them away. Extra emollient oils then condition the skin.
For men, exfoliation can also be important, as it assists shaving by exposing hair follicles. My husband has a few areas on his neck that are extremely prone to developing ingrown hairs. At some point, my constant reminders about exfoliating will sink in, and he may find some relief. Ingrown hairs can get pretty serious, and can even cause scarring, so a little prevention is definitely worthwhile. Scrubbing bars like pumice soap are also great manly exfoliants. After working in the yard or on the cars, my husband gets his hands clean again in no time with my handmade pumice bars. The fine pumice I use scrubs gently but cleans effectively.
So celebrate National Exfoliation Month with us. Yeah, we’re evil marketers – but wait… there’s more: we make great exfoliating bars that can really help your skin. :)
A word of caution about overdoing it: getting too aggressive with either chemical or mechanical means can cause redness, irritation or worse– so go easy on your skin! Those with sensitive skin, dark complexions or acne-prone skin need to be more cautious than most.
It's probably a little late to reflect on the passing of 2012, but an amazingly busy holiday season plus getting ready for two new babies has slowed me down a bit. When the babies arrive, I may slow down a bit more, but Brian (my husband, for those of you who don't know) has promised to pick up the soap-related slack.
At any rate, the highlight of December (not counting watching my daughter Robyn open her stuffed Pete the Cat and autographed picture of Yvonne Craig/Batgirl) was being a vendor at the "Inspired by Nature" Arts and Craft fair at the Cleveland Metroparks' Rocky River Nature Center. We've written a bit on the Metroparks before, as we made an appearance as a vendor at the Healthy Planet, Healthy People fair. To recap a bit, we're big fans. We can't wait for the West Creek reservation construction to be finished. It's not far from Soap Central (our house), and is about the only green space left in Parma. We're not necessarily hippies, but we do like to get out in nature every now and again. Brian more or less grew up in the woods, and has a bit of an aversion to being surrounded by asphalt on all sides.
The Inspired by Nature fair was a great event, for a number of reasons. The displays inside the center are interesting for kids and adults alike. There's a cantelevered deck that juts out high above the Rocky River, which is beautiful in December. There's a row of rustic bentwood rockers that lines a wall of windows which allow those in a mood for relaxation and protection from the cold weather to experience much the same scene as those who venture out onto the deck. Brian and Robyn took to the trails for a hike, and reached a nearby summit for an even better view of the river. Our favorite indoor feature is a replica of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's Dunkelosteus fossil, along with a life-size, lifelike model of this 20-ft-long prehistoric armored fish. Robyn was amazed to discover that fossils of similar creatures had been found nearby in the shale cliffs that tower above the river.
The Nature center makes a perfect setting for arts and craft items that have a natural or handmade theme, and there were some wonderful items to be had, including turned wooden items (bowls, candle holders, and the like), pottery, needlework, photographic art, and some awesome soap (made by yours truly). It's a truly unique experience to see Ohio as our ancestors may have seen it, and to appreciate the artistry of things made by hand, the similar to the way our ancestors may have made them.
Judging from the crowd on hand, a lot of people feel the same way. We sold so much on the first day, we didn't think we'd have enough for the second day. Thankfully, after a very late night of packaging and labeling, we were able to get enough together to satisfy shoppers on that final day. Thanks to everyone who helped make this event a great success for us and the other vendors - the great folks that work for the Metroparks, our new customers, and everyone that stopped by to chat and to enjoy the fantastic scenery. We'll be back again this year, and we hope to see you there.
Being pregnant with twins has brought out some creativity and some craziness in me lately. At least, that’s what I’m blaming for my need to pull out my sewing machine and make my daughter’s Halloween costume this year. She was a cheetah, or a leopard, depending on what day you ask her. Since I’m pregnant, I haven’t quite gotten around to putting away the sewing machine. It wasn’t so hard to carry it down to my sewing/soap office/dining room, but six weeks later, the trip back up the stairs is looking a bit more daunting. Lucky for me that I didn’t take it back up, when the sudden urge to sew something else hit recently.
After avoiding my daughter’s and husband’s germs successfully until mid-November this year, I suddenly felt that familiar pain at the base of my skull and in my neck as my lymph nodes started to swell. Unfortunately, the only drug I can rely on, ibuprofen, is a big no-no, so I was left with natural, safe remedies. The best of these for me, other than sleep and vitamins C and D, are hot compresses. I dug out my ancient flax seed aromatherapy sock that came from a popular bath-and-body store several years ago during some clearance shopping. I threw it in the microwave, then threw it on my neck. While the heat was helping, I realized that the eucalyptus had seriously faded and smelled musty instead. Rather than buy a new one, I did what we normally do in this house: make one myself. Since my typical customers purchase my bath and body products for relaxation as well as hygiene, I thought I would share this project with you.
Here’s how I did it.
Mix the Flax Seed and Essential Oils
I started by mixing the pound of flax seeds with several drops of eucalyptus, spearmint, and lavender essential oils.
I find those oils to not only be soothing when I don’t feel well, but also great at clearing clogged sinuses. “Drops” is the operative word here. These oils can be potent, and excessive amounts of oil can be dangerous if you heat the sock in a microwave. If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can find them at health food and some craft stores. After some mixing, smelling, and adjusting, I was satisfied with the aroma, so I set them aside.
Sew the Inner “Sock”
I decided I wanted my flax seed compresses to be in two parts: the pretty outer cover and the muslin case to hold the seeds. The muslin case came first. I measured some muslin fabric to make a case that would be about 2 in by 8 in when finished. I cut a strip of fabric, folded it, sewed it on two sides (using about a 3/8” seam allowance), and turned it inside out so the seam would not show. I poured about 6 oz. of scented flax seeds into the muslin sock and used the machine to stitch across the top to close them in. If you don’t have a machine, you could sew the sock by hand, but the stitches need to be small in order to hold the flax seeds.
Sew the Outer Cover
Using the 2”x8” sock as a guide, I set to constructing a cover. I cut two strips of fabric, both slightly larger than the inner sock, one slightly longer than the other, so that when the cover was stitched closed on three sides, again using roughly a 3/8” seam allowance. The excess would act like the flap of an envelope. When tucking it inside the flap holds the muslin sock in place. The flap was the hard part. Basically, I folded the excess on each of the flap’s three sides over, ironed them flat, and stitched each side. My best version has not only straight line stitches with nice hems, it also has mitered corners, an enhancement you might try if you’re accomplished with a sewing machine.
Once they were all sewn, I could use them! I threw one flax-filled sock in the microwave for about a minute, shoved it in its pretty case, and found the sweet comfort for my swollen, painful lymph nodes that I had been searching for.
I imagine the relaxing effect would be enhanced with a warm bath and some herbal bath salts, or an herbal-scented bath bomb. So why not try it yourself? Let us know how it goes.
Disclaimer - Safety First!
Construct one of these aromatherapy socks at your own risk. Handling essential oils requires some caution. They are very concentrated, and can be irritating. Gloves and eye protection would be a wise precaution. Also, be careful when heating the sock. Don’t overheat it, and be careful not to burn yourself or the sock. Experiment with gradually increasing lengths of time in the microwave until you achieve a comfortable level of warmth.
I just finished bottling my first batch of homemade beer. It’s not the concentrated kind you make from a can. I cooked the grains. I strained them. I boiled the liquid and added the hops, let it ferment, and put it in bottles. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through when you can just go to the store, hand the clerk $10, and walk out with a six pack (heck, if you’re not picky, it could be a 12-pack for the same $10). What’s worse, I did all this for a gallon of beer (5-gallon batches are standard, but I don’t have the room). Why bother? The short answer: to make something.
I guess being a bit of a do-it-yourselfer is in my DNA, but I think it’s a bit deeper than that. For a long time now, our society has focused on specialization. As mentioned above, it’s more efficient. Making beer takes hours, and hours of my time is (theoretically) worth more than the $10 I’d spend buying beer someone else made. The more recent development however, is that our economy is becoming ever more focused on providing services rather than building things. The tradeoff, I think, is that we have lost a little something. We may do our jobs, and do them well. We may do things that are truly useful, but I can’t really point at something in the course of my “real” work day and say “I made that.” A professor of mine who used to work for the electric company said that he knew of no one more prideful in their work that the workers who built high-tension towers, as they could easily show friends, family and anyone else what they had made.
I may be alone in this sentiment, but I don’t think so. There are cable networks dedicated to this sort of thing. An army of celebrity chefs teaches us to create in the kitchen. Entire stores are stocked from floor to ceiling with scrapbooking supplies. Martha Stewart built a media empire teaching people how to completely transform an entire room using nothing but crepe paper and throw pillows. The evidence seems to suggest that droves of people are looking for a creative outlet.
In a way, it reminds me of the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s been said that this too was a response to the replacement of the craftsman by industrialization brought about in the Victorian era. The Arts & Crafts movement is no longer with us (though thankfully, the furniture style is still going strong), but that creative drive within us remains.
So I guess this is my long-winded way of inspiring you to go out and make something. Simple or complex, find something that interests you and build it. Don’t get crazy and try to make handcrafted soap… We’ve got you covered there, and you wouldn’t want to spoil Shannon’s creative outlet, would you? But go buy yourself a book and get started, and let us know how it goes; or tell us what you've already made. We'd love to hear about it.
One of the best-kept secrets regarding Shannon's Soaps may be that Shannon makes a great line of shaving soaps. In fact, shaving soap was one of the first soaps she made.
It was my request actually. If she could make fantastic bath soap that even my super-sensitive skin could handle, I figured she could make a shaving soap that would make shaving a less irritating chore. Thankfully, I was right. While it was curing, I got myself a brush and a mug, and began to look for a razor.
Unfortunately, my stock of Schick Tracers had nearly been depleted. Or perhaps that was a happy coincidence. If you're going to go the traditional shaving route, you've got to go all the way, right? I needed a more traditional razor. My uncle's suggestion was to use the antique straight razor he gave me that had belonged to my great grandfather. That was problematic for a couple reasons. First, I have a bit of an aversion to causing further wear and tear on antiques. Second, and no offense to straight razor aficionados here, straight razors are terrifying. I'm sure they're perfectly safe, but as a near-life-long user of modern razors (both electric and blade), I settled upon looking for a double-edge safety razor. Why the very name is confidence inspiring! Maybe I'll try a straight razor someday, but I thought I should walk befor I ran.
For the uninitiated, a double-edge safety razor is a bit of a halfway house between a straight razor and a modern cartridge razor. It features a disposable double-edge blade that is locked in the razor's head. A safety (there's that word again) bar or comb helps guide the user in achieving the proper blade angle. It can be a bit tougher to use than a modern cartridge razor, which can have a pivoting head to lend further assistance in getting the angle correct, but with some practice, it's really not that hard at all.
So... I came across the razor pictured above in a thrift store. A vintage Gillette Super Adjustable, brand new in the package. Because I could not bring myself to open it, I bought a very nice Gillette Super Speed from the '50s that I am currently using. The Super Speed worked great, but the Super Adjustable called to me every so often. I mean, it's so cool, and it's adjustable - which is a nice feature to have. The adjustment changes the blade angle, so you can get a more or less aggressive angle depending on your needs.
So the question became, "What should I do with it?" I can't start ANOTHER collection... A basement full of vintage Atari stuff makes that impossible. Then it hit me - I could use this poor, defenseless razor to enhance our soap making profits. That's right people. Buy some shaving soap, or I will OPEN and USE it! Then it will no longer be a pristine, new-in-the-box razor... HA HA HA!
Of course, the major flaw in my evil plan could be that most people are probably not as sentimental about these sorts of things as I am. Hmm... Well... Buy some shaving soap anyway. If you try it, you won't go back to cream or gel.
There's good news and bad news for Cleveland, Ohio area residents: a certain super-fancy mall has a large assortment of soap shops for bath & body aficionados - including some I hadn't seen before. Every mall has at least one, but I counted six bath and body stores, and one shaving store, so there's something for everyone - almost everyone anyway. If you're sensitive to sodium lauryl sulfate, you might need to look elsewhere.
I was specifically interested in checking out one store - the one that is known for handmade items. Certainly the store looks the part, with signs that appear to be hand lettered, and displays that are reminiscent of something you'd see in a grocery store showing off fresh produce. The array of items is impressive, and the scents are very nice (a bit strong for my tastes, but pleasant overall). The ingredients are listed on the signs, where I saw something that is a major source of criticism for this particular brand - chemical ingredients, particularly sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent used in many commercial "soaps".
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is a surfactant - it basically enables oil and water to mix, so that the oil can be carried away by the water. It is also an effective foaming agent, enabling the soap-like concoctions that use it to bubble nicely. It is generally regarded as safe for humans, but it is also generally regarded as a skin and eye irritant.
It is also inexpensive, which is the reason why I was initially outraged that a 3.5 oz chunk of this "soap" cost almost $8. My bars of handmade soap, which are SLS free, cost about half as much. I've noticed that some other companies that make and sell handmade soap take on an angry tone and rant a bit about products similar to this mall store's offerings. I've heard that the environmentally friendly and natural values touted by such companies are really a marketing facade.
Whatever the truth is, these products seem to satisfy and work for a lot of people. There are also a lot of people for which these products don't work. What I mean is, a lot of people, including members of my family, can't use products with these and some other chemical ingredients. I'm not necessarily afraid of chemicals. As I've explained before, there are some situations where chemical substitutes are appropriate. If you want a jasmine-scented soap for example, you'll either pay a fortune for the natural scented version, or you'll make do with the more reasonably priced artificial version. Also, consider the fact that some natural ingredients can aggravate allergies. Some of my customers must be careful of ingredients derived from nuts, for example.
The lesson here is, find out what you like and what works for you, and use it - natural, chemical or whatever. If you want don't mind detergents in your soap or the additional premium for ambiance or the other ingredients, or you don't have moral objections to the use of detergents, have at it. If SLS irritates your skin, and you like the luxurious, creamy lather that actual soap can provide, then find yourself a source for handmade, real soap. Of course, I highly recommend mine.
As I write this, we’ve just come back from the Healthy Planet, Healthy People fair at the Rocky River Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. The event is momentous for a few different reasons. To begin with, it was the first
year for this event. Second, there was an attempt to break the world record for the greatest number of people simultaneously doing jumping jacks. And last but not least, it was the first event I attended as owner of Shannon’s Soaps – more about this in a minute.
I imagine many metropolitan areas have organizations similar to the Cleveland Metroparks. They are a government-sponsored collection of wilderness areas around various suburbs of our fair city. There are trails and picnic areas, with some of the more exotic locations including the zoo, and toboggan chutes. Even if you’re not the environmentalist type, everybody likes to get out into nature every once in a while.
Well, this event was a great opportunity to do just that. In addition to the excitement of the 5k race and record attempt, we (well, my husband Brian anyhow – I was otherwise occupied with sales duties) got to spend some quality time with our daughter playing on the swings, walking in the river, and looking for fossils. Even if we hadn’t sold a thing, it would still have been a nice way to spend a Saturday morning.
Speaking of sales, I’d like to thank all of the people that bought some of the items I had on hand. It was great to get out, meet people, and talk about my products. I’m happy to say that we got a good, steady stream of shoppers until things died down after the awards ceremony.
There are some common questions I’m asked about my products, and the fair was no exception. Here are some of the things people commonly ask:
Q: How is your soap made?
A: Quite simply, I make soap by mixing fats with lye in the correct amounts. Soap is created in the reaction, and precise calculations are used to make sure that all the lye is used up in the process. I blend different types of fats in different proportions to give the soap its desired properties. Some fats make bubbly soap. Others make creamy soap. Still others enable the soap to condition the skin. From careful research and experimentation, I’ve developed what I think are the right combinations for a gentle, luxurious, cleansing lather. The process is explained in a little more detail on my About Shannon's Soaps page, but those are the basics.
Q: Which of your soaps is best for sensitive skin?
A: That’s a tough call. Different people have different types of skin, so it’s difficult for me to make a precise recommendation, since you know more about your skin than I do. However, all my soaps are made to cleanse gently, without synthetic detergents. I can tell you that my husband, whose hands break out in eczema after using any and all liquid hand soaps, some shampoos, and certain hand sanitizers, can use all of them without a reaction.
Q: Is your soap “natural”?
A: My product line contains many soaps that are 100% natural, like Honey Nut with Goat’s Milk – with no added fragrance, or essential oil scents, and natural or no added colorants. Other soaps, like Chocolate Marble, contain natural scents and naturally derived colors like ultramarines, oxides, or even cocoa powder. Even my soaps that have D&C dyes and fragrance oils are still 99% natural. In a roughly 3-lb. batch of soap, I use roughly 0.5 oz of fragrance oil and 10-12 drops of dye.
Q: Why use fragrance oils at all?
A: Some scents just aren’t able to be made as essential oils, coconut and vanilla being two of the more popular ones. Some essential oils are just way too expensive to be used in soap-making, especially if they are delicate.
Natural jasmine or sandalwood can cost hundreds of dollars per ounce!
That about covers the more common questions. I’m sure there will be ample opportunity to answer more in later postings.
So was the jumping jacks record broken? I’m not sure. If not, perhaps it will be next year, and hopefully I’ll be invited back to sell my wares again at the next Healthy Planet, Healthy People fair.
As a soapmaker, scent is a very important part of what I do. Certainly a primary function of soap is scent removal, but the scent of the soap itself is equally important. Have a look at the dizzying array of my bath salt or lotion fragrances if you doubt me.
Thus, it’s important for me to understand what scents people will like, and why they like what they do. It’s fascinating really, and it’s all very scientific. We all know from experience that our sense of smell is very powerful; well there’s a tremendous amount of research that backs all this up. Here’s some scientific scent stuff I thought I’d share.
Psychology of Fragrance Use: Perception of Individual Odor and Perfume Blends Reveals a Mechanism for Idiosyncratic Effects on Fragrance Choice (Lenochová, Vohnoutová, et al.)
In this study, the researchers challenged the common notion that fragrances make life more pleasant because they mask our natural odors. In a series of three experiments, the authors found that fragrances in fact interact with our natural scent, combining to create an odor that is more pleasant than either a perfume or natural body odor alone.
Furthermore – and this is the cool part – it seems that people tend to gravitate to fragrances that enhance their own specific natural scent. This may be why people want to sample a perfume on their own skin before buying. The perfume will apparently smell subtly different depending on who is wearing it. This research deals specifically with perfume, but I think we can infer that the same applies to scented bath and body products like soaps and lotions. I guess mint chocolate chip smells good on me!
Speaking of perfumes, here’s another scientific scent tidbit– the phenomenon of olfactory fatigue, which is something we’ve all experienced but for which we may not have known the scientific name. Basically, our sense of smell adapts to ignore scents we’re exposed to for a prolonged period of time. The theory is that our brain is trying to prevent sensory overload, and allow us to remain vigilant for fragrances that are new.
I mention olfactory fatigue in the context of perfume because if you’re wearing it, you need to be aware that this happens. After a while, you’re not going to be able to smell what you’re wearing. Keep in mind though, that the others you encounter will probably be able to, so there might not be a need to use more.
Here’s a neat tip: you can refresh your sense of smell by getting a whiff of coffee. Apparently, perfume counters sometimes keep a supply of coffee beans on hand so that people can recharge their senses and keep on sniffing.
As I’ve mentioned before, when you make home made soap for a living, you’re bound to have a whole lot of it lying around. With a three-person household it’s unlikely that we’re going to be using all the scraps bathing (unless we were all to take a few more showers a day), so I’m always on the lookout for other neat ways to use my handmade soap.
This use is very neat, and it’s very useful for spring, too. You can use soap in combination with other common ingredients to create insecticidal soap – a human and environmentally friendly concoction that kills many bugs that harm your plants. The soap mixture will kill soft bodied insects like spider mites and aphids, but is relatively benign to harder bodied insects like bees, as well as mammals. It can potentially kill predatory mites, which feed on spider mites, but if you’ve got an infestation of spider mites, you have to wonder if there are predatory mites in sufficient quantity to do the job unaided.
Insecticidal soap doesn’t leave a long-lasting protective barrier on the plant, but it will quickly kill susceptible insects it comes into contact with. You can certainly buy a premixed variety, but making it yourself is a project that’s fun, easy and rewarding. I say rewarding because I find being resourceful to be very rewarding. It’s also nice to know exactly what’s going into the pesticides you use around your home. Even if you’re not a die-hard environmentalist, you can appreciate using an effective pesticide that’s biodegradable, especially if you have young children.
There are a lot of variations on this recipe out there. I’ll probably experiment with some of the more exotic ingredients in a later posting, but I was looking for a basic, easy recipe to use as a starting point.
Here’s what you need:
Insecticidal Soap Recipe
1 Tbsp grated soap
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 quart of warm water
It’s best that the soap actually be soap - a detergent like you might find in “soap-like” products like body bars, beauty bars, or deodorant bars may or may not work. Most sources I found state that they will not. I suggest a no-frills soap, like my non-colored, non-scented Plain Jane soap. It’s easy to measure if you shave or grate some off the bar. It’s even easier if you pulverize it in a food processor after grating it. Add the soap to the water and let is dissolve. Add the vegetable oil, put the mixture in a plant or garden sprayer, shake well, and spray where needed. The vegetable oil supposedly allows the soap to stay on the plant a bit longer for some added protection.
It’s best to test the soap mixture on a small, inconspicuous part of the plant before treating the whole thing. Treat the plant and wait for a couple days, and be on the lookout for yellow or brown spots or leaf edges. If my math is correct, the recipe above should give you a solution that is a bit weaker than the 2% common in pre-prepared varieties. You might be able to go a bit stronger, but if you detect problems with any concentration, you can try cutting down the soap concentration to make a weaker solution. Avoid using the mixture on new growth or plants that are under stress. Some plants, like ferns or some tomatoes will not tolerate the soap well.
Spray the plants (especially the underside of leaves, where insects like to hang out) in temperatures lower than 90 degrees, and when they are not in full sun. Early in the morning when it is cool is often a good time to treat, as this will allow the mixture to work longer before it dries. This will also ensure that the mixture will dry; a night-time or dusk application could encourage mold growth. Leave the soap on for a couple hours, and then wash it off to reduce the likelihood of damage. You may need to do a second treatment in a week, and perhaps a third the week after.
As with any mixture designed to kill or clean anything, be careful. Eye protection and gloves are always a good idea when using a pesticide. The soap is unlikely to hurt you, but it can potentially irritate your eyes, and possibly your skin.
Huh? Fine soap is like an old toaster? Yep. It’s somewhat like a vintage '70s or ‘80s JCPenney* 4-slot toaster, to be exact. How’s that? Let me explain.
When we first got married, my uncle gave us a 4-slot toaster, as we needed one, and many other things to outfit our “new” house. My uncle has given me a lot of cool old stuff. The latest is a nice-sounding 1970s Fisher quadraphonic receiver, but that’s a story for another time. Though old, the toaster worked perfectly. It looked its age – chrome-plated and boxy, but it was well-manufactured with quality materials.
Fast forward a few years. I came across a new “luxury” toaster. Its smaller size was more suited to our modest kitchen, so I bought it. It had a digital display and a brushed stainless steel case. The rack that holds the bread was not held down by a simple thermal/mechanical mechanism like the old one. This one worked with an electro-magnet… very fancy indeed. Unfortunately, even with its gizmos and polish, the new toaster was not much of a toaster. The springs that move the rack up and down were weak, and beneath the sexy brushed steel exterior, the flimsy sheet metal that supported the internal components was not strong enough to withstand the simple motion of raising and lowering the bread. In short, for all its good looks, it couldn’t perform its most basic function very well – it didn’t make good toast.
On a recent trip, I snagged a fancy-looking “massage bar” (i.e., soap) from the hotel. It had little nubs on it to perform its massage function, a nice (but not overpowering) scent, and little plant bits in it. A few nights ago, I found that I’d used up my oatmeal mint, and decided to try the massage bar. I figured I might as well use it up; no sense in wasting it. Big mistake. Biiiiiiig mistake. I’m really not one to use lotion, but after using that massage bar, I had to take extraordinary measures, slathering lotion all over my arms, legs and back, or I would have itched myself to death. This massage bar, like the fancy toaster, did not perform its basic function well, despite its good looks.
There are a lot of what I call “faux luxury” items out there today. Manufacturers have discovered that we will pay a lot more for flash – flash that does not improve function at all. This is something that's been on our minds as Shannon formulates new products and makes her soaps and other items. Sure, we'd like them to look nice, like the sexy stainless steel toaster or the fancy massage bar, but when push comes to shove, we want them to work well. From personal experience, I can tell you that they do. If you try them, I hope you'll agree.
* JCP sold toasters? They sure did. Some of you may not be aware that back in the day, Penney's was more like Sears.