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Time management in a small business setting.

Juggling as defined by the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary:

transitive verb

1: to handle or deal with usually several things (such as obligations) at one time so as to satisfy often competing requirements (Example = juggle the responsibilities of family life and full-time job)— Jane S. Gould

2 A : to practice deceit or trickery on : BEGUILE

B : to manipulate or rearrange especially in order to achieve a desired end (Example = juggle an account to hide a loss)

3 A : to toss in the manner of a juggler

B : to hold or balance precariously

We all know that juggling can be hard. 

We juggle chores.

We juggle responsibilities.

We juggle our time. (family vs. work vs. business)

We juggle our personal needs.

But I have learned there is a very BIG difference between juggling and balance.

Juggling means we usually have WAY too much to do, and not enough time (or so it seems). I, personally, hate to juggle. But with 3 kids in school (1 a senior this year. Yikes!), all their activities (band, choir, show choir, soccer, plays, and now wrestling for the youngest), and working full time, it’s no surprise that I learned to juggle long before I started this endeavor with Michelle. 

One of the biggest things our business has shown me so far is that juggling is not always the best way to handle life. I would bounce from project to project to try to get things done, and end up getting very little actually accomplished (damn brain and “too much to do, not enough time” panic mode). From making products, figuring out logistics, to double checking which labels I needed to print for the weeks packaging. Sometimes I would just get so FRUSTRATED with how much I had to do, and how little time it sometimes seemed I had to get anything done. Michelle is constantly telling me to “ ‘BREATH, damn it!’ We will get it done!”

Balance is learning (usually the hard way) that sometimes you have to learn to let go or delegate projects to others. Learn to breathe, prioritize (i.e. – make lists), and leave something undone until you have time. Learn that sometimes, you need to take time for YOU (yes, we all need self care once in a while), and do something you enjoy. I like to take bubble baths, reading (duh!), and play computer games with my husband. (gotta love quality time!)

Now back to the business!

First, we stop, take a deep breath (yes, Michelle I remember) and LOOK at what we need to be done. Lists are wonderful things, don’t get me wrong! But sometimes just making the “needs done” list made me crazy! (yes I said crazy. /shrug). However, once we broke the list down into categories, like “do today”, “do tomorrow”, “can be done next week/month”; things got better. My brain started to calm down a little (only a little), and I realized that we could actually get it all done in the time we needed. So as of today (October 28th), we officially have all our soap made! Huzzah! 

In getting ready for our Harvest Market (event on November 25th in Atlantic, Iowa), I have learned that doing a little each day (whether I’m working or not), means I make progress. Baby steps are still progress. From spending 20 minutes on the computer getting labels printed after supper, to organizing my supplies when I clean off my work station (OK, my kitchen table) so I can find the items I need faster whenever I need them next. It all makes a difference. I am learning (slowly, according to my husband) how to be better organized. It all is included in balance.


M – I’m glad you’ve learned at least that, Carrie (/hugs). For me it’s all about eliminating distractions. When I work, I have to be totally focused on the business otherwise it’s all just one big jumble, I get distracted, and suddenly I haven’t done anything for the week. I’m continually trying to get it through my thick skull that I cannot work down in my room. It’s a recipe for laziness and procrastination. I also have learned that it has to get done first thing, otherwise I will put it off until the day is done.

For me, this means, no phone, no games, no books, no social media unless I’m working specifically with that site for the business, and no one interrupting me. That is a very tall order considering we just got a dog, therefore interruptions are inevitable. 

It’s why I’m more of a hands on girl. Give me products to make, and I am in the zone. This is because it’s a lot of little pieces to put together and I can’t be distracted because then things can go boom. Either that, or I manage to waste a lot of product and destroy at least one bowl.

It’s easier for me since the only kid I have is my fur baby, and she just wants to be pet 24/7. I don’t have a husband, heck I don’t even have a romantic relationship at all. I have a job that allows me to be home 4 days out of the week. However, I feel that because I’m not used to managing my time in the way that Carrie is, I don’t have the best skill at it.

I do feel that I need to pull my own weight some more in the business. I will get better at it, just in slow increments.(C – No worries Dearone, I just have more practice! I started the same way; and we both have our own hangups on weight pulling, but that’s a WHOLE other blog! LOL)(M – Thanks, hun.)

C – So remember everyone, balance is better that juggling. Being in balance can make your world (no matter how large or small) a much better place to be. (Case and point – my 17 year old daughter and I had this conversation when she started looking at colleges last year :D)

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Preparing our Vegan Beauty products for a Craft Fair Event.

Preparing for an event can be hard work, stressful and time-consuming, ESPECIALLY if you don’t have a plan.

The reason I say this is we just signed up for out 1st major (to us) event, called Harvest Market, based in my home town in Iowa.  It’s a BIG event in my little town (pop. ~7000). ALL the crafters, hobbyists, and small businesses in the area come together to showcase all their holiday products. It is usually the Monday before Thanksgiving, so this year its November 25th. It’s hosted by Produce in the Park and the Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce.

As you can imagine, we are both excited and a bit scared, to be attending this event. First things first, what do we currently have for sale? How much do we want to have on hand for sale? Do we have enough time to make, much less package, everything we want to have?

So after a minor panic attack on my part (yeah my brain does that sometimes) and some time breathing, I started a list of what we needed to do. This included small things that we were ready to do anyway (like ordering a larger amount of business cards and stocking up on labels and packaging supplies), to thing we THOUGHT would be farther out in the future, like making a sign and having a pretty table cloth. Even bumping up the finished and packaged inventory became more of a priority.

So the list goes something like this..

  1. Know what we have on hand – not too hard since we already have a rough inventory system in place. Just double-checking for accuracy the next time we spend some time at the workshop. Or I could ask mom to do it since the workshop is at her house …hmm something to think about. Also, we have been having a few sales that I’m not sure got taken out on inventory (oops!)
  2. Decided what kind of “paperwork” we need to have at the booth. I confess I asked a few of my friends who have done events like this in the past. I got some really good advice too! (thanks to David and Aaron for the info and feedback!) 

This included such things as a price list (yeah, knew that), and about us page (hmm) in a stand-up picture frame so it’s more visible (oh!), and an ingredient list comparison for our soaps. Even things such as a basic order form (just in case we run out of specific products. Hey! A girl can dream!) and a receipt form for all our customers.

One of the main things that the guys suggested was that color draws attention. I had never really thought about this that much. So we decided to color coordinate our price list to our items (as much as we are able) as well as to our box sets. All the lip balm products are listed in orange, the body powder in reds, the basic bar soaps (and sample basic bar box sets) are listed in light green, the specialty bar soaps (and the deluxe bar sample box) listed in light blue. And just for fun, our Rose Garden soap is listed in (what else) rose red. 🙂

The ingredient list comparison was interesting, to say the least, not to mention eye-opening. What do we put in our soap vs. what is usually in most store-bought soap? Have you ever really LOOKED at what is in your soap from the store? 

  1. Decide how realistic our desires are vs. what we can actually make in time to sell. “FIND A REASONABLE NUMBER!” – my brain can be quite instant, can you tell? Timelines were a must for this part, we even built in some extra time just in case we had an off week (car troubles, bad weather, other things cropping up for family, etc.) the fun part of deciding how much to make, is we don’t really have a sales history to work off of. We know that we have sold more Oatmeal Breakfast Bar than anything else (except lip balms) but that is only 2-3 bars. 

Will people like it at a craft fair vs. my describing it to a friend and her buying 2 bars to send to a grand baby with really bad eczema? /shrug who knows. 

We DO know we don’t want to run out, so we decided to make at least 12-16 full-size bars of each flavor. This should allow us to have a lot, without running out (we hope!), and still allow us time to make enough that we can get our sample boxes set up for sales too. Otherwise, that’s what the order forms are for!

  1. Next, we had to decide what to make when, to boost our stock levels. The soap has to be done first, as it takes a while to cure. Almost everything else we do takes less than an hour to do, and most of that is time spent cooling or setting stuff up to package. So knowing we had to do soap, we made a list of our current stock from least to most, so we would know what order to make more of them in. We also have a small complication of Michelle not currently having a car. So travel time is different from what we usually do. We have less time together, but more time separate, to make soap. 

So, we decided to divide and conquer! We will do the more intricate soaps (the specialty stuff that takes a bit more effort) together, while I can do some of the basic soaps at the workshop on days when she works. Michelle is also doing a few newer scents/color combos to try to appeal for the holiday season (see the Facebook page, Sweetsistersvegan, for sneak peeks!)

So, we are well on our way (we hope!) to being prepared for our 1st event. I’m pretty sure we have missed some things, but we have time yet. We hope to see you there!

Carrie & Michelle

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Trials of Mica Colorants in Soap Making (a.k.a the creation of our Whoops! category)

Colors are supposed to be simple…

You just pour Mica colorants in the soap when mixing to get the colors you want…. Sounds simple, right? Well, most of the time it is. 

We seem to have issue getting some colors to work correctly, namely orange or anything with orange in it. /sigh


1st try – Our sunrise soap. 

Bright orange juice and black coffee, swirled together to make an uplifting, wake me up scent…. The color turned out milk chocolate and cream…><….. (it didn’t really turn out bad, just not what we were trying for. No worries, it got turned into a Whoops! item)


OK, what did we do wrong? Were we not using enough color, not enough water? Too much orange juice? And the brown was supposed to be dark chocolate brown!?!?

/throws hands in the air in frustration…..grrr


Since we weren’t sure what went wrong we decided to take out all the additives and focus just on the colors. We were also experimenting with fall colors for soaps as well since it was a little ways away. So we went for a brown with red and orange swirls. We even added extra mica just to be sure.


Yeah, that didn’t turn out well either. The brown once again lightened while the red and orange blended together, which we should have expected since they’re so close to each other on the color wheel. So now we were really at a loss.


Ok deep breath…. Let’s step back and think. We have just been adding mica colorant until it’s pleasing to look at after we mix our other ingredients…but that is rarely what it comes out for the final product. Maybe we need to be a little more scientific…So we went to a mica supplier’s website we plan to use (Nature soap is awesome) and read their info page. This is where we found the color blender! Oh the fun we had for a few days figuring out what colors we wanted to use vs. the colors we ended up ordering. (so much fun!)


Back on topic: we decided to get a mica colorant sample pack (10 – 5 oz. “choose your own colors” for $16; SUCH a sweet deal!) so we could get a lot of colors to “play” with, as the hubby would say. The website recommends using “ 1 teaspoon per pound of oils. With lighter colors like orange and yellow, a little bit more can be used to get a bright color. Darker colors like brown may need a bit less.” from their FAQ page about using mica colorants. We decided we DEFINITELY hadn’t been using enough mica for some of the lighter colors. It also explained why our darker soaps tended to turn out well. /shrug Have to get lucky sometimes right?


So we decided to do an experiment with said color sample pack we had bought. There are 10 colors, and we have mini silicone soap molds. Can anyone see where this is going? Anyone?


We decided to make “samples” to see how each of the colors match up to the color of the powders as we saw them in powder form. “Waste not, want not” We took the recipe for our 1 pound batch of soap and divided it into 10ths. This allowed us to measure out each “batch” and make it separately. The one drawback to this approach, was how we had to bring the soap to trace… we were using smaller containers to mix in, so the stick blender we usually use didn’t fit (by the time we were done, my wrists REALLY hurt from whisking). Also, our mini molds are not all the same size. We actually got 12 samples by the time we were done, all the base colors as well as 2 “swirlys”! BONUS! 


Downside, since the silicone molds WERE smaller, we had some trouble getting the samples out of the mold later in the week. We decided to let the samples sit a few extra days to make sure they set properly. Most of them set well, though I did have to throw the neutral gray into the freezer overnight to get it to set. 

Oh, and one little tip if your playing with soap? Don’t set it to cure on cardboard… apparently it leeches the oils and colorants out of the soap >< 

grr, mutter, curse under my breath, sigh


We were actually pleasantly surprised with the results. We decided that we liked the golds, needed more colorants in the reds, blues, and greens; and needed LESS is some of the darker colors, like the cider fire. 


So of the 2 golds we tried (Sahara and Shimmer gold) the Sahara was more of a TRUE gold compared to Shimmer gold which turned into more of a cream with gold sparkly glitter. It should be nice for the lighter accents we want to do for a “to be named later” soap design… Check out or Facebook page for batch by batch previews!


The blue, gray, and green turned out more of a pastel then the true color we were expecting. That’s OK, we can use them as is, or add more mica powder.


The red, yellow, and pink all turned out wonderfully, though they faded a bit after a few days. A bit more colorant, maybe just a pinch (dash, whatever) of activated charcoal to darken them for our fall/winter colored soaps….. 


So, if things go well in the next batch or two of soap our current mica problems will be cured. If that’s the case, it is probable that what we were using before was a lesser quality item, which has now been rectified. If not, then it’s back to the drawing board to see what else we can do. Either way let the experiments commence!


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Our Inspirations – Part 2


Inspiration. It’s a word with so much meaning that it would be hard to describe it. It is much like passion which consumes our thoughts and takes over our very lives. Even the definition cannot do it justice. After all, the quality and state of being inspired still has the word in it. Saying what inspiration actually is seems a bit pointless to me, so instead I will tell you where I get my inspiration from, regardless of what the definition says.

I work in a place where inspiration is sometimes hard to come by. I have no windows and the harsh fluorescent lights does this place no favors. The one thing I do currently have is a partly painted wall. It is green, like the green you would find on a ripe lime. It is not quite the correct color to gain inspiration from, but it is all I have during my time at my day job.

So, what about this green wall that gives me passion? It reminds me of the outside. I love the color green. After all, green is life. It is the color of grass, leaves, stems, and all sorts of natural things. Nature at its very essence is my inspiration. Give me a cool autumn afternoon with not a cloud in the sky. The wind is sharp with the scent of winter on the way, but the sun is warm and is the perfect weather for the lightest of cardigans.

Nature lends itself to mystery and to magic. I have stood in the forest next to what looks like ruins and have felt my mind open to so many possibilities. I have taken midnight strolls through a local park and have felt a niggle of promise in every step. Nature is where passion gains its wings like fairies as it flits about whispering into ears that are willing to listen.

Nature also gives us a bountiful harvest. It is where food comes from and even that can draw inspiration and passion. It is my belief that nature is at the center of everything. Without it we would not be here and if we were our imaginations would be dull and lifeless.

“The Breakfast Bar” is one such inspiration that is drawn from food. It’s oat overtones mixed with warm cinnamon is an inspiration taken from a simple breakfast and this video which gave me the idea.

My “Midnight Encounter” soap is also taken directly from food as it is filled with rich, fatty cocoa powder along with the detox effect of activated charcoal.

One scent that I have been trying to recreate from the images of my mind is “Roses in a Midnight Graveyard”. Morbid? Yes. However, it is still fascinating where my mind can go and I do like following it, so please bear with me.

Close your eyes and picture this. The smell of roses hangs fragrant in the air. Their smell is almost overpowering. Trees linger on the edge of a plot of stones, their scent so faint as to be almost non-existent. Cold stones can barely be seen from the light of the stars as the moon turns her face away, shedding no light. Each slow step you take forward brings another smell. Damp earth from an earlier rain shower can now be smelt. The wind plays with your clothes, beckoning you forward while underneath all of that is the scent of something almost foul, or perhaps sickly sweet, maybe even putrefying, so faint you can’t trace it. Can you feel that? Now open your eyes.

That is the kind of scent I aspire to create. Something that takes you somewhere and makes you feel something. It might not be something you want to feel, but it is a visceral reaction to the stimuli of scent.

Nature is the gateway to everything for me. It is my ultimate inspiration and as I grow mentally and even as I travel it will always be with me. I will always be inspired and I am ever so joyful about that. After all, it can change lives, move mountains, and even create miracles. And it all comes back to a partly painted wall which started it all.

If any of what we’ve said has resonated with you, then please reach out and contact us, or buy something from our store. That will be inspiring in and of itself, and even if it isn’t, it will help us to continue making things that we love and have a passion for. Your support will help us change the world, one bar at a time. Thank you.

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Our Inspirations – Part 1

Inspiration…It’s kind of a funny little word that means different things to different people.

Webster’s dictionary defines it in multiple ways:

1 a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation

b:  the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions

c: the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

2 a: the act of drawing in (specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs)

3 a: the quality or state of being inspired

b: something that is inspired (a scheme that was pure inspiration)

Carrie Ann:

I tend to use the third definition the most, as most people would. We find inspiration in making our creations from a variety of different sources.

Our main inspiration comes from a lady named Julie Fain. She runs a successful company making many different crafts. Her website for her soaps (Ophelia’s Soapery), as well as her YouTube channel provide me, at least, with something to strive to accomplish. 

I want to make such beautiful soaps that people can enjoy! I want to spread joy through not only making things for other people to enjoy, but also the videos and blogs to let people see a slice of my life. To CONNECT with people from all over the wonderful country we call home as well as around the world!

One of the other areas where I find inspiration is when I read. I read an eclectic variety of reading material, though I tend to have phases where I will read specific types of books (usually). The idea of making something USEFUL, PRACTICAL, and GOOD FOR ME came from a phase where I decided that self help books, while useful, don’t work for everyone. I decided to find my own path. 

I learned that creating helps me to de-stress (as well as spending time with friends and family), while making something that others will enjoy and find useful, makes me feel better about myself. This helps with my self esteem, as well as my feelings of self worth. (I’m sure there are others out there who have faced this problem. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!) 

Some of the other reading material based inspiration will come out in the choices of our soap scents. Some of our book inspired scents include: 

“English Tea Garden” which comes from the idea of an old fashioned, Victorian era, outdoor tea party. The various flowers in their own little beds, being surrounded with so many wonderful, sweet smells that blend together with an undertone of dark tea and milk. Ladies with their parasols, gloves and fans, batting their eyelashes and sighing wistfully at the gentlemen who attend. 

“Gentlemen’s Cigar Club” comes from the idea of an old fashioned Victorian era cigar club. Gentlemen dressed in their finest in an area full of comfortable sitting areas filled with dark polished wood, fireplaces, butlers, good food, and classic dark colored robust drinking spirits.

“Walk Through the Woods” comes from the smell of a walk outside in the wild. A path that is used just enough to be seen, but barely. Somewhere where you are completely alone, but know others have walked before. Clean air, green growing things, maybe a hint of water as you come across a waterfall where you find a beautiful person waiting just…for… you…maybe with a surprise picnic spread out and waiting…

(Can you tell what phase I was in at this point?!? LOL Historical romance for the WIN!) I hope that YOU find inspiration in whatever and wherever you see it. Anything can make a difference, if not for you, for someone else. 

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DIY soap cutter update August 2019

Update August 10, 2019

So after using this wonderful cutter for about 3 weeks, Steven helped me cut some soap and was concerned with the amount of “wiggle” that the cutting arm had. He then proceeded to redesign the cutting arm pivot point. We went from a single point of brace in a block of wood, and being able to remove the cutting arm for transport; to a double point of contact HINGE that removed most of the wiggle in the cutting arm, but means we can’t take the cutting arm off anymore (no big loss there, in my opinion).

While Steven is still not satisfied with the final piece, it does what it was intended to do. Make it easier and more efficient for us to make goodies to share! Honestly, if I let him, he would continue to tinker and make more items for our workshop until he was happy with what he came up with. (I just might let him! I love you dearheart!)

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Our Mission Statement

Hi! We are Sweet Sisters Vegan!

We started out as a couple of friends whom have had trouble finding products that meet our medical or ethical needs. One friend is vegan, one limited on what she can use due to allergies. Both have sensitive skin and one has eczema.

Both of us decided that it would be easier (and more fun!) to experiment with making our own beauty products. After a while of experimenting  (and getting positive feedback from friends and family for their homemade goodies), we decided to see if anyone else would like to try our products.

Sweet Sisters Vegan is committed to honesty and integrity, which we believe every single business needs in order to succeed. We are currently a business of 2 owners who make joint decisions in everything and will take into account our customers’ feedback. If you would like to reach out to us we can be found at

We currently make items such as: lip balm, body powder, and soaps, but we are always experimenting and will continue to add new products as they pass our quality tests, and get some positive feedback from everyone we share it with.


We accept these payment options: Paypal.

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Making our DIY wire soap cutter

July 2019

BIG shout out to my wonderful husband Steven (thanks dearheart!) for using his wonderful brain and super mechanical/carpentry DIY skills to save us some money!

So when Michelle and I started this adventure, my husband was somewhat leery of what we were doing (understandable, as it takes money to have a hobby, much less start up a business), and was also less than enthusiastic…But once I asked nicely for something that would help us in our endeavor, he started to  ask questions and to plan.

First questions were, “what does a soap cutter look like? What do you need it to do?”

Well dearheart, this is the best example of a “do it yourself” soap cutter I could find….. He looked and did some more research (not really liking what he saw, I guess), and came back to me with the next set of questions.

“What did we want the soap cutter to do? Did you really want something that simple? Are you really just going to cut your soap with a knife?” 

Well, no, Michelle and I really wanted something more like the YouTube channel we watch uses (props to Ms. Julie Fain from,, but they are really kind of expensive (like $90-$120 with shipping). It kinda looks like this picture here:


He took this information and spent about a week thinking, sketching, and drawing out various ideas. I then took these ideas, and sent them to Michelle (love you Sis!), so we could discuss the various pros and cons of each possible idea. When we were done, which took maybe 2-3 weeks or so, we ended up with something close to the cutter shown above, with a few little tweaks of course.

Next, came the fun task of figuring out what type of material we wanted this cutter made from. In the last few years, my husband and I have done various renovations (mostly small) to our house that have resulted in some reclaimed lumber of various sizes and conditions. Out to the garage we went! After looking at everything we had saved, we decided to use a few pieces of a waterbed frame that we had replaced this year due to water damage. This had the bonus of not only being hard wood, but also having already been varnished! 

Cutting these pieces to a workable length, that we needed to assemble, was a challenge. While we don’t have a large workshop with larger tools, I know someone who does (shout out here to my mom and stepdad for letting us use the table saw and other various tools!)

After we cut out the base, side, handle, offset block, and stop block pieces, we then headed home to the husband’s workshop.  Once we were home, he proceeded to mark out, and then chisel out, channels for the all-thread piece we had bought. Next, he drilled holes for the dowel pieces (runners) for the stop block. When that was done, he used locking nuts and washers to secure the all-thread piece to the base of the cutter. He even treated it so that it will A) never rust and B) never loosen. The stop block allows us to have the ability to do variable length cuts, but also keep the edges (and our cuts) straight.

(Just a note, that while I could have helped him, usually the best help I can give is staying out of his way! ESPECIALLY when he is being creative. LOL!) 

(See I do help!  LOL)

Next, came the cutting arm assembly. One of the issues he had was a concern that the tension of the guitar string that we are using for a cutter, could possibly cause too much strain on the arm. This was because we chose to make it from multiple pieces of wood, rather than the solid wood piece we had originally planned. After talking about it some, we decided to send me to the local Walmart to buy braces for the inside of the cutting arm. This lent stability without adding too much weight or awkwardness. 

Next, he created, and installed, a custom tension system (I love you dearheart!) to allow us to be able to adjust the tension on the guitar string. This means longer wear time as the guitar string will not be under constant tension when we are not using the cutter.

After attaching the side piece, he then fiddled with the offset block for the cutter arm. He drilled, checked alignment, found washers, played with spacing and generally tinkered (yes, I said tinkered) with the cutting arm until he was happy with the placement and action of it. This meant an easy to use motion, both up and down cutting; the cutting arm is easy to attach and detach; as well as lining up correctly to the groove he had cut into the base piece. We then tested it! We decided to place a guide for the guitar string mounted to the backside to help keep our cuts straight.

After all of that, which was almost 6 ½ hours of cutting, tinkering, running to Walmart, and assembling, we had our cutter finished! It looks AMAZING! Not only did my wonderful husband make an awesome design, he also told me that he can add an attachment to the other side of the cutter for when we get to the point (hopefully!) that we will be wanting to make larger batches and splitting them into thinner logs before cutting them.