The Week in Soap: 17th Sept ’17

It would appear that Autumn is well and truly here. There’s a chill in the air in the mornings, and we’re lighting the fire every evening. It’s also a reminder that Christmas is coming, and with it that big, three day Christmas Fair I’ve committed myself to at the beginning of December – eek!  To that end, this week’s soapmaking was all holiday based:  Double batches of Candy Cane, Frosted Christmas Tree and Warm Gingerbread:

Frosted Christmas Tree, Candy Cane & Warm Gingerbread in the mould

Frosted Christmas Tree, Candy Cane & Warm Gingerbread in the mould

I’ve not taken ‘proper’ photographs of the cuts yet, but here’s a sneaky peek at the Frosted Christmas Tree:

Frosted Christmas Tree

Frosted Christmas Tree

And a quick (and rather rubbish – sorry!!) snap of the Warm Gingerbread (this is the previous weeks batch – this week’s moved even more quickly and I didn’t even attempt the drop!)

Warm Gingerbread

Warm Gingerbread

I had a bit of a mishap with the Candy Cane – there was a knock on the door mid-pour, and instead of ignoring it I went to answer it, thinking that the soap batter was nice and fluid and I could leave it a moment or two… There’s a lesson learnt – I was away from the soap just that little bit too long and when I came back it had thickened up too much to finish off the drop swirl, arrghhhhh….

Candy Cane Interrupted

Candy Cane Interrupted

Bath bombs are a relatively new thing for me and I’ve always found them a little tedious to make to be honest. Last Friday I made 90 of them, and I seemed to be quicker this time. I guess practice does make perfect (still need a LOT of practice though :-D)  They were pretty trouble free, except for one variety, but that’s a story for another day…

Bath bombs

Lots, and lots, of bath bombs

I also packaged up another 100 guest soaps, and bevelled a load more – there’s confetti soap on the horizon I reckon:

Soap shavings

Soap shavings

On a personal note, the highlight of the week was earning my green belt in kickboxing on Monday night:

Green Belt!

Green Belt!

Unfortunately I didn’t feel quite so kickass when I got to training on Wednesday night and discovered exactly what I’m going to have to do to earn my blue belt – there’s some hard work ahead of me!!

If you have a soap (or bath & body) blog, please do join our Soapmaking Bloggers facebook page (and maybe even consider taking part in Blogtober Soapers? ;-D)

Have a great week everyone, I’ll be back soon.

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Blogtober’s Fast Approaching…

I’m in the process of building a list of blog ideas to keep me going throughout this year’s Blogtober blogging bonanza.  For those who don’t know, the goal of Blogtober is simply to post on your blog at least once a day during October. I did it last year and didn’t find it too difficult, but I don’t think I can re-hash all the post from last year, I need some fresh inspiration!

And this is where you come in my soap-loving readers.  I’d welcome any suggestions for posts that you might have, but, more importantly, I was wondering whether you would be so kind as to throw some questions at me? Anything at all (well, kinda, lol)  I thought I could then do a post answering them, and then I’ll only have to think up another 30 blog ideas… :-/

If anyone out there has their own Soap and/or Bath & Body  blog and would like to join in the fun, there are a few of us in the Soaping Bloggers Facebook Group taking part, using the hashtag #BlogtoberSoapers.  It’s a bit of a challenge if you don’t normally post regularly, but it really is doable, especially if you do a little prep beforehand so you have ideas to hand, and maybe even have some posts ready-written and saved for emergencies.

So pleeeaaaase post me some questions – anything you like – and I’ll answer them next month – pinky promise 😀

Introducing… Sugar Drops

One of my soaps used to make me a little sad. It smelled divine (no, I know I say that about all of them, but trust me on this one…) but it just didn’t sell well.  It’s fragranced with a dupe of Aquolina’s Pink Sugar perfume: think candy floss, caramel, vanilla blended with strawberry jam and musk with top notes of lemon drops and brown sugar. It really is lovely.

The high vanilla content in the fragrance oil means that it will naturally turn the soap brown, so while I use my regular drop swirl design, I only add FO to two thirds of the soap batter (one third with Titanium Dioxide, one third with no colour) and leave the pink portion fragrance free:

I became convinced that the reason it wasn’t selling was because of its name: First Kiss (so called because it’s so sweet, *groan*)  It was cheesy, and the feedback was that it wasn’t something that older people would want to buy as a gift, even if they liked the scent.

I needed some help to come up with something better, so I asked the good folk of Instagram, and was lucky enough to be given load of great suggestions.  The one I went with was Sugar Drops, suggested by @nightwingbeth.  I liked that it still implied sweetness, and also referenced the Drop Swirl design.

So there we go – First Kiss has been relegated to history, step forward Sugar Drops.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

An Outdoor Adventure – The Week in Soap 10th Sept, ’17

It’s Tuesday eve, and I think I’m pushing the time limit for posting a round-up of last week, so I’m going to make this a quickie…

The main focus of the beginning of last week was ‘Back to School’, which didn’t actually happen until Tuesday, when both kids headed into school with a quick kiss and barely a look back.  I gave a little jump for joy, and headed straight into the soap kitchen to make soap. Mostly restocks (double batches of Bewitched & Luscious Lavender) but also made some progress on the Christmas stock – a double batch of Warm Gingerbread which, as per the test batch, moved really quickly, but I managed to get a small drop element in there. Cut photos to come next week I hope…

Bewitched, Warm Gingerbread & Luscious Lavender

Bewitched, Warm Gingerbread & Luscious Lavender

I added a little mica swirl on the top of the Warm Gingerbread, just for some added interest:

Warm Gingerbread Mica Swirls

Warm Gingerbread Mica Swirls

Wednesday and Thursday I was at the (part-time) day job, but managed to find some time to start on cutting, bevelling, wrapping and labelling a big order of mini guest bars.

Mini guest bars

Mini guest bars

The rest of the week was spent doing the usual soapy stuff, including spending as much time as I could uploading info and photos to the website – I think I’m still on track to launch at the beginning of October *crosses fingers*

Friday… Friday was kind of special, and had been planned for a while.  Before having children my husband and I used to do a lot of hill / mountain walking, but we’d not been to the top of a mountain for about eight years. With both kids in school, we packed a lunch and off we went. The weather wasn’t great and we got a good soaking on the way up, but the weather cleared at the summit and we were rewarded with a lovely view. We descended in sunshine and were dry before we got home. It was absolute heaven, and we’re already planning the next one…

The view from the summit 1

The view from the summit 1

The view from the summit 2

The view from the summit 2

Happy Hikers

Happy Hikers

A Soapy Disaster – The Week in Soap: 3rd Sept, 2017

The last week of the school holidays didn’t give me much time to devote to the business.  I made some soap, wrapped a few bars and uploaded a few items to the pending website and had one, massive, disaster. But more of that later.

I didn’t make a lot of soap this week but I did make a double batch of Tutti Frutti. Here it’s in the mould, before and after the top swirl:

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

And the cut.  I think I tried to be a bit too clever this time. I wanted the colours to more strictly follow the order of the colours of the rainbow (so how did I get red next to green lol?) but to do that I had to be a little more ordered in the pouring. I think I prefer the more randomly poured swirl so. Apologies for the rubbish photograph…

Tutti Frutti just cut

Tutti Frutti just cut

I also learnt my lesson and made a TEST batch using a new fragrance. Warm Gingerbread FO is one I’m hoping to use for Christmas, and I planned small batch with a simple design just to see how it handles.  I’m glad I did – the website testing notes said it would accelerate, and accelerate it did.  This pic is immediately after the cut – the two bottom layers should turn a lot darker over the next few weeks because of the vanilla in the fragrance oil.  I left the top layer fragrance free:

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

It smells delicious, and I really want to use this FO to make a drop swirl bar for Christmas, so I’m going to have to use all the acceleration-reducing tools in my arsenal – and keep my fingers crossed!!

As I’d already made a start on the Christmas bars during the previous week, Candy Cane, Star embeds for the Christmas Tree bars, and a couple of batches of Dinosoaps, I’m confident that I’m on track time-wise.

And that disaster. Urgh… I was making more of the Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) soap.  The last version was ok, but the bars weren’t uniform enough and the mountain itself didn’t really reflect reality.  I intended to use the sculping soap technique (I was recently reminded of it by the incredibly creative Danica of Seife und anderes – if you like soap blogs you really should check it out), but the soap batter riced on me in seconds. I’ve used this fragrance before (and besides, the testing notes say no acceleration) so I REALLY wasn’t being reckless.

Anyway, just for the giggles :-/ I decided to try to squish it into the mould anyway. I actually had to get my hands in there to mix in the colours and colour squishing IS now a technical term.  Was there the slightest possibility that it would come out acceptably rustic looking? NO. No, no no NOPE!!  The soapy gremlins were well and truly esconced in my kitchen that day lol:

A soapy disaster

A soapy disaster

No, I didn’t rebatch it. Yes, I trashed it.  I know, I know, one of these days I’ll have to give rebatching a go but I don’t currently have spare a slow cooker that I could do it in, and, really, I just don’t feel the rebatching love…

Thanks for reading, back very soon!

 

 

 

Goals: September 2017

September Goals

Does anyone else feel like September is a bit of a fresh start? Almost like a mini New Year if you will.  It’s always been the same for me, probably because it’s the start of the academic year, and therefore was often a time of change during my younger days.

Anyway, this September, things get serious for The Soap Mine.  My youngest starts full time school next week, and I’ve known for a couple of years that this September will be a pivotal month for the business.  Up until now I’ve had to work during the evenings and weekends, but going forward I’ll have 22 more hours a week to really grow and take this business forward.  (I’ll continue to work in the Village Pre-school for 8 hours a week – on Wednesdays and Thursdays, for the time being)  Having said that, it won’t actually  be 22 hour MORE, as I’ve no intention of continuing to work all evenings and weekends like I’ve had to do this last couple of years.  I’m taking some time back for me!

Ok, back on task. There really should be only one goal for September – get the website up and running.  I’ve made a start – today I spent a couple of hours inputting text and uploading photographs – but it’s going to be quite a long process if today’s anything to go by. Many of my photos need to be re-shot too so that may take some time.  Part of the website launch will involve migrating this blog onto the new site – I have no idea how that’s going work – am I likely to lose all my readers in one fell swoop or will you all somehow, magically, be redirected to the new site? We’ll see I guess :-/

But one goal’s just not going to cut it this month. I need to get the majority of my Christmas soaps made if they’re going to be cured and wrapped by the beginning of November. I also want to get back into the swing of regular blog posts too. I’ve committed to doing Blogtober again this year, but aiming for 8 – 10 during September should keep me on my toes.

So there we go. Website, Christmas soaps and blog posts.  Together with the ongoing restocks, they’re the priorities for this month. What are yours?

 

 

 

 

I seem to have lost a month…

I had an inkling August would be busy. I hadn’t planned on posting often on the blog, but abandoning it for a whole month really wasn’t on the agenda either. The kids have been on holiday of course, but the soap business doesn’t stop for the summer (if anything it is busier than any other time, bar Christmas) and I’ve been frantically juggling childcare and keeping on top of the business for the last month.

I won’t dwell on it here, but the weather during August was utter pants.  Seriously, it was rubbish.  I had so many plans for picnics by the river, and lazy days on the beach, but it just wasn’t going to happen.  We took walks in the rain, visited castles in the drizzle, and went geocaching under stormy clouds. The kids even climbed their first (small!) mountain, and loved it. Ha! Take that, weather! We had fun anyway…

As well as keeping retailers stocked up, I’ve made 330 bars of soap during August. Not as many as I would have liked, but with BOTH (finally!!) kids back at school all day as of next Tuesday, I’ll able to get back on track fairly quickly.  I’m not making any Halloween bars, so it’s restocks and Christmas soaps all the way… Candy Cane proved very popular last year, so that’s what I started with:

Candy Cane, freshly cut

Candy Cane, freshly cut

I’ve also started on the star embeds for the Christmas Tree bars:

Star Embeds

Star Embeds

And Dinosoaps are back!

Dinosoaps

Dinosoaps

It really doesn’t seem right thinking about Christmas in August but last year I got caught out when retailers wanted Christmas stock in store right after Halloween (eek!) so this year I’ll be better prepared.

Oh, and do you remember that marmalade I made back in January? I entered it into our village show a couple of weeks ago, and it only went and won first prize!  I knew it tasted good but absolutely didn’t expect to win anything.  These aren’t the best photos but I also won firsts for my Viennese fingers, Melting Moments and Swiss Roll plus second prizes for my Victoria Sponge and Coconut & Lime Loaf:

Village Show Successes

Village Show fun!

These are the Viennese Fingers, which get their own photo because, frankly, they were bloomin’ delicious. Excuse the wonky one – only three were entered – that wasn’t one of them! If anyone wants the recipe let me know and I’ll post it – it’ll give me a great excuse to make more!!

Viennese Fingers

Viennese Fingers

It’s been a great month, but things will be getting back to normal here over the next few days and I’ll be glad to get back into a routine – the blogging schedule will be back on track – I promise!

Thanks for reading – all being well I’ll be back tomorrow with my goals for September.