Strange Item to return from China

Two days ago I offered a challenge for all our readers to name the strange, usually discarded item I brought back from China. I’ll review these great guesses and give you the answer.

Connie said “I think you brought home soap and tea.” While I did bring home tea, lots of it, I didn’t bring home soap. That part is really weird for me, I must admit. Connie, I’m glad to be back, thank you!

Sarah suggested Ziploc bags. This was one of the strange things about China. I expected to find ZipLoc and I would have paid dearly for them! They weren’t available in the markets I found and there were many times I wish I had them. Next time I go I will bring EXTRA ZipLoc bags. This brand has the heavy weight and tight seal that was so desperately needed at times.

Tonya said “Welcome back! I’m going to guess – empty containers and empty packaging.” I did bring home a few cool empty containers but this is probably normal for most people. Do you bring home empty containers because they are cool? The key here is empty packaging! Tonya is my sister and if you read the blog about language barriers then you know Tonya P is the TP the hotel delivered! We’re now hot on the trail!

Caren said “Well, I know that they will not let you bring plants, veggies or meat in from another country, so I am thinking also that you brought back some great empty containers to put soaps in. I’m so glad that you have arrived back in the states safe and sound with the best memories. Having the two girls gone for quiet some time is hard, 2 of mine live far away, one in another country, only Canada, but still far away that I don’t get to see them that often, Skype helps.” Skype and FaceTime do help. They are life savers! I just wonder what my Grandma would have thought about those. Empty containers again, but this wasn’t what I had in mind. Thanks for the well wishes! We are glad to be back.

Marija said “Soap! I think it was the soap you brought back.” I know! What soapmaker doesn’t bring home soap? This was so weird!! Marija, I loved your PS. Here it is: “I got my first order from you guys yesterday…it reached me incredibly quickly and contained almost discarded mini lip balm of beloved red (or was it blood) orange. wow! what a cute little surprise, I love the mini balm packaging and am ordering some today! thanks, Marija”  Little things can get lost in the packaging so look carefully. I am so glad you found this mini!

Crystal said “Pipettes.” That would be funny! I actually left all product and supplies like this with Andee. We are hoping she will pop her head in here during her stay in China. I’m the guilty party that left the inspiration to blog and create. Yes, Crystal, the lack of humidity has gotten the better of us but I have walked by Taylor in the blog kitchen and she is deep into her work to create something to soothe the skin. She plans on sharing all next week. Keep your email on notice to get the blog daily!

Rebecca guessed “I’m going to guess a couple of things you would normally dispose of but kept, I’m guessing a laundry bag from a Chinese dry cleaners, or a soap box or chopsticks , your trip sounded so exciting for you.” Oh gosh! I did bring home a bag for the dry cleaner. We kept teasing about ‘ancient Chinese secrets’ and the younger kids didn’t get the Calgon commercial reference, but all of us adults did and we laughed it up. We’re not close to the item I was thinking of though.

Bekka said “Matchbooks!” I didn’t realize until a few years ago that there is a whole group of people who collect these items. It is a really fascinating hobby, but it was not a matchbook.

Carolyn suggested “I’m guessing you brought back all the samples of different soaps, lotions, and shampoos that they leave in hotel rooms. (That’s what I always do!) Glad to have you back, safe and sound; and a little lonely, I’m sure. But it won’t be for too long. And what a wonderful opportunity for your girls! Blessings to you and all those dear to you, Carolyn.” Thanks Carolyn! We had a great time and I sure do miss Andee and Jerry. I get to FaceTime with them in the AM or PM. It is a riot to see their faces and share in the news. I left all the samples with the new couple and I brought back things I wanted.  So, no, it isn’t the hotel toiletries.

Lynda guessed, “Some type of packaging, sacks OR newspapers.” It is a sort of packaging, but a very specific kind. Not the concept of an empty bottle or the like. Dirk did get a few beer bottle labels for his collection. But this isn’t what I was thinking of in my blog. There have been very good guesses here!

Leilani guessed, “Disposable Shower Cap? Or one of those cool tins that Chinese medicine comes in.”  Oh my gosh! I haven’t seen a disposable shower cap in years! That would have been really cool!

Robin wrote “Soap wrappers, for lack of a better term. I keep all of the soap wrappers (cigar bands, tissue, labels) that come off soaps I received in swaps or purchased myself to try. The blog box was a fantastic surprise the other day, too! Much more than I could have asked for. ~Robin” Robin, we are so glad you liked to blog kitchen box. They were great at helping us corral the extra supplies in the blog kitchen and certainly were fun to hear of the special things people are making. I like the idea of a collection of soap wrappers. I haven’t started one though.

Julie wrote “I’m thinking chopsticks and a wrapper listing the ingredients of a soap you found that you are going to try and recreate.” That would be cool, but I didn’t get that far in my travels. Yes we climbed the Great Wall, saw the Temple of Heaven, walked the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, but shopping for soaps didn’t happen. Maybe Andee can do that for us.

Cee wrote “A collection of hotel soaps.” I wish I had. :-)

Lesley says “My guess is chopsticks, they work so well for swirling soap.” I was given some chopsticks but I suspect these are for eating. They have silk wrappers as holders. The chopsticks are amazing in China. By the end of our stay I didn’t need to wear a bib while using chopsticks.

Peggy wrote “I think you brought home small samples of toiletrees from China hotels you stayed in.” I think that because we are soap and lotion makers this is a common theme. Unfortunately I didn’t bring any of these items.

Cindy says “Something that most people would discard…hmm that makes me think of the hotel sample sized toiletries such as soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. Of course there are other things, perhaps a newspaper from the area you were in or some packaging that something you purchased came in, I am not really certain. It will be fun to hear what it actually was. I absolutely loved the box of freebies that you sent. I used some of them in lip balm and lotions. Thanks so much for the great gifts. It is certainly good to have you back. I’m sure you’ll miss Andee, but I’m sure she will have a great time with her studies. Welcome back and thanks again for all you do.” Thanks Cindy! We are so glad you have been busy helping the blog team empty the drawers and cupboard (and counters) to make lotions and lip balms. That is the best news of all! You won’t believe the answer, which is coming right up!

Leslie wrote “Bottles, perhaps plastic coke bottles?” That would have been good but soda isn’t popular in China. We found a few cans and such but even 7-11 carried supplements and more nutritious drinks.

Christine says “That’s definitely gotta be used soap.” I so wish! It is great!

Lisa wrote “A folding fan? I’ve been thinking about this, but can’t come up with anything else.” I was given a lovely folding fan. They have large fans for men and dainty fans for women. I was amazed by all the collectable fans I saw.”

Terri asked “Cool and interesting packaging–probably packaging that would make an interesting soap mold?” There are amazing soap mold materials all over this planet. I am amazed by different vessels that would make great molds from all over the place. But not it.

So, are you anxious to hear? I brought back toilet paper tubes. When I was a little girl the tubes were quite stiff, today they are very thin and flexible. Since I spin wool and silk and other fibers it is common for spinners to ask for toilet paper tubes to wrap their yarns. These were so stiff I collected them from all the guests and used them in any void in our luggage. I was able to spin wool at the Temple of Heaven. It was a wonderful break in our first few days of site seeing. Later I was able to spin at the park where a doughnut-shaped pond was created. The rest of the family went paddling around the pond and I sat under a tree with my spinning wheel. I got lots of strange looks, more so than when I spin in the USA, but my afternoon was wonderful. I almost finished the wool/Tencel mix I brought with me. My spinning wheel was the most difficult item to get through security for me. Dirk had a hard time because he was the IT guy with all the electronics and every time they wanted to know why he had so many converters and cables and wires. Otherwise, security wasn’t too bad. Could someone explain why my bag must be checked by a human when I just went through the machines and had to show the humans my contents? I emptied my carry on more than once in the same series of checks. The redundantcy was a little much for my likes because I always try to validate every thing us humans do at MMS. It is either essential or it is not. I didn’t see the value in the checking after a checking.

I’ll get someone to pull a random number and we’ll get a blog kitchen box out the door.


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Lip Balm Party – Cocktail Hour

One of the first things I have planned after recovering from my trip to China is a lip balm party with all of my girl friends. I am so excited to spend an afternoon with them talking about my trip, our summer plans and everything that has changed while I was gone. There really is nothing better than an afternoon talking and giggling with them while we make lip balms, bead or sew. We are a crafty bunch that require our hands to work while we gab. 


I plan on taking some of the mini lip balm tubes for our girls get-together. I can’t wait to show them off. I expect squeals of delight and them to be high in demand. While mentally planning for this little get-together, I thought it would be fun for our readers to virtually join in on the fun!

Here is what we are doing. We will be using the Soy Lip Balm Solution. We will be making three different flavors of lip balm. These are some newer flavors that are perfect for summer. They are… Pina Colada, Margarita and Champagne. Yummy!

We are going to be using the Mini Lip Balm Tubes but you are welcome to use any container you would like. Heat the lip balm solutions gently until liquid. Add the flavor oil and any color or mica that is desired. We won’t be adding any color to ours. Pour into containers and allow to cool. Cap and label. Enjoy and cheers!

I will be sending 75 samples of each flavor to shipping so don’t miss out! Get one in your next order today!


Lip Balm Selection
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Wow! We’re back!

The trip to China was incredible. Incredible! The food was amazing and plentiful. We had Peking duck and fell in love. We could not believe the price of such a thing! The whole bird was about $ 8 at a restaurant near our hotel. We had a great time ordering this. Taylor especially loved the Peking Duck and asked for it several times. I suspect she will order it many times over the next year as she is a student at the university there.

The biggest change in our return, aside from the animals being so happy to see us, was the relative humidity. We left Beijing having 92% RH, and our return to Cache Valley met with 9% RH. Yes, you read that right, a single digit of 9. The air is so dry that a bloody nose is likely when sneezing. We sell humidifiers in Utah, all over the place. I can’t think of a store that sells household goods that doesn’t sell them. We can not buy dehumidifiers here. The thought of buying one seems crazy to our residents. So, what did I find that the RH really impacted? My legs and face seem to flake! What is a girl to do? Moisturize! I found my jar of face cream and I slathered it on from head to toe. My skin is not itchy now. Yea!

To gain more room in my luggage I left my face cream with Andee. I left my toothpaste tube, body powder and first aid materials too. She gained an instant cupboard of supplies just by having family go home. I’m sure she would trade those supplies for family in an instant. I must confess, I did bring home something most people discard. If you can guess what it is I have a box of supplies from our blog kitchen for you. If you aren’t sure you want such a box, guess anyway, but read the post about the blog kitchen disaster that Taylor and Andee had a week before we left. The people who gave advice and comment have been sent a box. The boxes aren’t tiny and they contain a wonderful collection of supplies just like the blog kitchen has all the time. We hope those boxes are sources of excitement to experiment. Each day our warehouse packs off a shipment and the blog kitchen gets the extra materials that didn’t fit into a bottle.

So, what item that is generally discarded would someone bring home? Guess away!

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A Walk Down Memory Lane

Yesterday I promised that we would share some of our favorite childhood scents. I will begin with my list of favorite childhood scents and what fragrances I think match those memories.

My parents kept honeybees when I was a child. I got to help with the harvesting of the honey each August. The whole house would smell like warm honey and beeswax, with a touch of smoke from our clothes when we had collected the hive bodies containing the honey. We had lots of laughs, fun and sticky faces because Dad would let us eat fresh honey comb. 

Honey Harvest Fragrance is similar to the scent of my memories.  This fragrance has notes of warm beeswax, fresh honey, hints of almond and oatmeal. Smells like a honey harvest with bowls of warm oatmeal waiting in the kitchen.

Peaches are the favored fruit of my childhood. I grew up helping Mom can peaches each fall and the whole family would enjoy peaches during the winter, spring and hopefully the following summer. It was always a sad day when the last bottle of peaches was opened because peaches not only taste good, but they seemed to bring the late summer sunshine to the table.

Peach Fragrance is so realistic that I have caught myself salivating over the bottle whenever I use the fragrance. I swear that just opening the bottle sends me back to those peach canning days when my face and hands were sticky with peach juice and I was helping cut peaches or stuffing quart jars with slices of summer.

I’ll admit it, I will always be my daddy’s little girl. My dad and I have shared many memories: me as a toddler stealing his midnight snack of blue cheese and crackers, reading books as we rocked in his hammock and ate pistachios, building and launching rockets as we studied space, and me helping him take apart his junk computers as we laugh about work, school and friends. When I think of my dad there is one common element in those memories, Dad’s cologne. His favorite cologne wasn’t worn everyday, but I remember him smelling like Old Spice. Mom tells me that he didn’t wear any Old Spice.

Spicy Lime Fragrance is the fragrance that reminds me of those hugs that I would get from Dad when I was little. This scent of spices, lime and a touch of musk makes a classic men’s soap. One whiff of this and you will know what a hug in a bottle smells like.

I hope you enjoyed walking down my memory lane. Are there fragrances that remind you of fond memories?

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Flavors, Scents and Memories

Steamed dumplings with rice wrappers.
Recently at a late dim sum luncheon in Guangzhou, one of the dishes was a dumpling with a rice wrapper and vegetables inside. After taking a bite, I found that the dumpling had some herbs in it that tasted soapy to me. In the discussion that followed, we couldn’t decide if the herbs were lemongrass or cilantro. While Tina and Taylor agree me that cilantro tastes soapy, they didn’t understand why lemongrass tastes soapy to me. I had to then explain the association of lemongrass and soap.

When I was a little girl, I remember sitting near the top of the stairs that led into the basement. The basement in our house was divided in half by an unfinished 2×4 beam wall and one of those halves was “Mom’s soap lab”. When Mom would make soap, we could sit at the top of the stairs and watch her mix the soap. We could only enter “the lab” if all the soap had been safely poured into a mold and if Mom or Dad were with us. I remember sniffing all the bars of soap and the fragrances straight from their containers.

Anyway, on to my point about the association of lemongrass and soap. Mom has always loved happy and cheerful scents, so the shelves always had an abundance of fruity fragrances. One of my favorite soaps that Mom made was a lemon soap that the scraps were rolled into balls for household use. Since kids often bathe with open mouths, you can guess what happened once. Yes, I got a mouthful of lemon soap water. I don’t remember if Mom used Lemongrass Essential Oil in her lemon soap but years later when I packed that oil in the MMS warehouse, I got that same “taste” of lemon soapy water.

Once I shared the memory, I asked if the fragrances we smell as kids affect the foods we like later as adults. We had a fun time talking about scents, memories and our preferences now as adults. The conversation took great turns as we each mentioned fond memories, funny experiences and intriguing thoughts. One thought that was tossed on the table was play areas at fast food restaurants. Usually when kids go to these places with their parents, they don’t eat much of their food and they have fun running around and playing. Those happy and fun memories lead to us liking those restaurants as adults because the smell is similar to that of our happy memories and those very memories can influence us subconsciously.

What scents are linked to your childhood memories? Tomorrow we will share some of our favorite childhood scents.

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Getting stuck in the translation

>I am loving China. We have had some things get stuck between what we ask for and what we get. You could call it getting stuck in the translation. Only two individuals in our group can speak Chinese. Jerry, for whom Chinese is his first language, and me, but my Chinese is fairly rudimentary. I can say I want, don’t want, need, or even like something.

On the other hand, it is amazing how many people speak English. While many can only speak as much English as I can Chinese, they try so hard to understand and help. We find many things get confused or lost when speaking with the locals, but both parties laugh and then try again.

Here are a few examples for you. My aunt, Tonya, arrived in the hotel late during the night. When we woke in the morning Tina called the front desk to be connected with her sister. “Wei, ni hao. Hello.” (This is how the front desk answers the phone.) “Yes, I would like the room number for Tonya P.” “Toya P?” “Yes, please.” “Just a minute.” “Okay.” At that point the front desk hung up the phone.

Approximately 15 minutes later, there was a knock at Tina’s door. On the other side was one of the maids. “Ni hao,” she said and held out a roll of toilet paper. Confused, the roll was accepted and the door closed again. Looking at the roll of toilet paper, Tina realized that they had mistaken Tonya P. for toilet paper. We have all found that so funny and we can’t even pass toilet paper in any of the small markets without bursting into giggles. Tonya herself grins and on occasion she will pick up a roll and hand it to Tina. They giggle so hard, they remind me of school girls.

The other incident happened this evening. The electric kettle for the hot water wasn’t working in Tina’s room. (I think I am starting to see a pattern here.) 😉 Tina asked me to call the front desk. I wasn’t thinking much so I didn’t explain what I wanted. I told the front desk that the hot water wasn’t working. The receptionist fumbled the words out of her mouth. “The kettle?” she asked. “Yes.” “Okay, just a moment.” The line clicked silent and I sat back to catch up on my email. Not long after, there was a knock at the door. It opened to reveal a woman holding a towel. The towel was accepted and with some surprise, was discovered to be warm. We all had a good laugh and I am now settled comfortably with my originally desired cup of tea. Tonight, I am drinking a Tai Wan Milk Oolong. What is in your cup?

Virtual cheers everyone!


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Hysterical Confusion

Do you have family phrases that take on special meanings that are not related to the actual meaning? I think most people do. Families are a mesh of many experiences which make up who they are. We soap makers have our own phrases and our families have started to adopt our terminology in their everyday language. Have you heard “That isn’t a real oil, it doesn’t saponify” from the mouths of your family yet? The next 2 days will be posts of funny communications that are examples of this communication in error.

A family member went to Taylor’s room and asked her for some corn flakes. Taylor explained that she didn’t bring corn flakes and offered her rice cakes instead. The family member declined and went back to her room. Later that day Taylor learned The Rest of the Story.

It is said that a distant relative’s mother would do her grocery shopping and once she got to the car she proclaimed to have forgotten the corn flakes. She told her children to load the car and wait inside. She then returned to the store to buy her feminine hygiene products. The family joke that allows for public discussion of a personal matter has lead to a lot of laughs. Today I share a photo of Chinese corn flakes.

It really doesn’t matter if we are communicating from one language to another or within a family, our life experiences help us choose words, phrases and hand gestures to explain our thoughts and requests. All people read the communicated words with their own perception of what is meant, rarely do we rely on actual meaning for a whole dialog.

If you think I have lost my mind, I offer a challenge: define natural.

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Roses on Parade

Roses play a big part in a Chinese wedding. There is a large spray of red roses placed on the hood of the lead car which carries the bride and groom. Each subsequent car holds the important family members, in order of importance, and the caravan parade begins. Flashers are operating on all vehicles to indicate we are traveling together and the chain should not be broken.

The parade begins from the hotel or home of the family, it continues across town and around Tian’anmen Square, passing the home of the emperor. The objective is to gain well wishes for a long, healthy life together from the officials of China. Since China is no longer ruled by emperors there is no official to wave on the daily parades. The tradition has not been lost or forgotten. We were not the only car/caravan on parade that day. It was fun.

Roses belong in every line up of scents. The scent can easily be over powering so we suggest a test batch and to start light. It is much easier to say “Self, when you make Rose soap again, use more scent” than put the soap in the garage for a 2 year airing out.

Color your soap red, pink, mauve, yellow, peach or purple. Any color will do but don’t leave your soap white. The Chinese believe death is represented by the color white.


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Beijing China has a lot of different views, odors and sounds. As we travel about the city there are many things I recognize and also things I don’t.

The Chinese people value natural soaps and lotions. We gave wedding favors to all the guests of soaps and lip balms. The soaps were of many different colors and scents yet all were made with goat milk. The soaps were made by Spirit Goat, a local company to MMS. The lip balms were made in our blog kitchen and flavored with Pomegranate Flavor Oil. Both items were a hit.

Tonight we walked the street vendors who were grilling foods, stewing meats, frying sweets, steaming buns and the whole city has a busy, complex aroma. Our office smells busy, complex and inviting too. Many people comment on the scent of our office and they wish we could bottle just the scent of MMS. It isn’t possible because our home changes odors every day. I can say that even the big, burly truck drivers think we smell good!

Do you need suggestions for new scents to try? Beijing China has a common set of fragrances for all scented personal care items. These are the typical set: Rose, Jasmine, Green Tea, Aloe, Pomegranate, and all of the super fruits. If you are stuck, just ask. We’ll give seasonal recommendations too. Don’t be surprised if our list is influenced by our travels. We feel especially lucky to share some of the things we have learned.


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The wedding was beautiful

The wedding is over and I’m sitting in my room just collecting my thoughts about today. I’m grateful to a team in the US called The Majestic Family. The crew at MMS made it possible to come to China to see my daughter’s wedding ceremony for her new Chinese family. Andee and Jerry are a delight to see and be with. Without the team of people who stayed in the US I would not be able to be here.

We’ve made some major changes in the past year and new changes are still coming. Andee was our blog writer for a long time. Many of you still remember her posts. She passed to our front counter position and has been the primary person processing orders for the last year. This meant our other daughter, Taylor, stepped into the blog writing area. This wedding and summer bring some major changes to our blog. Andee will be staying in China for about 1 year. After their extended stay Andee and Jerry plan to return to the USA. Taylor, however, will be leaving the blog in a few months to continue her studies in Mandarin Chinese. In a mere 2 months my home becomes an empty nest, my blog kitchen becomes quiet and my daughters can be found half way around the globe. This leaves me with many thoughts to ponder.

We’ve made arrangements with Taylor to pop in periodically to write about finding supplies in a different country. We will greatly miss her humorous perspective and mathematical challenges which result in massive amounts of samples which go to shipping. I’m not sure who will be the next blog writer, nor who will manage to steal (borrow) my hairbrush during my most rushed mornings but I suspect a whole new world is on the horizon. I believe we are ready to meet that new world. I’m just glad to hold on to the one I have a little longer.


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