January 2017 – Goals Roundup

So that was January! Four and a half weeks of my least favourite time of year, but you know what? It’s been pretty productive.  Back on the 3rd January I posted my goals for the month, and I’m really happy with what’s been achieved since then.

I completed my tax return.  Deadline was today, 31st January, but I made sure it was one of the first things I ticked off my list. Missing that deadline was not an option!

I finally got round to making some Castile soap – something that had been on my list of things to do for aaaages. I’ll be posting an update on the cure is progressing towards the end of next month:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

I’ve done a fair bit of research for my facial bar. I’m planning on making two – a charcoal bar for younger / combination skin, and a bar aimed at older skin.  I have a good idea of the recipes now, and hope to make some trial bars next month.

Finally I hoped to post on this blog at least 8 times. Well, this post is the eighth of the month, so a big fat tick for that one too…

I was gentle with myself as far as the personal goals went – I wanted to run 30km, and read a book, any book, just to try to get back into the habit of reading again. Well, I smashed the running – I’ve run 65.5km (!!) during January, and it would have been more had I not picked up a bug which morphed into a cold towards the end of the month which meant I only really ran for the first three weeks or so.  I’ve also started kickboxing once a week, which is hard work but amazing fun.

The reading went pretty well too.  I finished the book that I’d been crawling through for the last three months of 2016 – Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages by Gaston Dorren It’s an extraordinarily interesting book (if you’re as fascinated by languages as I am) and a very easy read. Each stand alone chapter is only a few pages long but packed with facts that made me ooohh and aaahhh with delight as I learned about the vast similarities and differences that exist within the languages of Europe.  I also got halfway through a novel – The Magicians (Book 1) by Lev Grossman. I enjoyed it enough at the beggining, but I had a nagging feeling that it was aimed at a younger readership – maybe a YA novel? Turns out it’s not, but I can’t get excited about the characters, and have decided life’s too short, and reading time too precious, to continue with something that I’m not ABSOLUTELY loving.  I only found out today that it’s been made into a TV series in the US. Have you seen it?  Is it any good?  Anyway, I now need to find a better book to read for February, ‘cos it’s going on that goals list again 🙂

So there we go – January goals smashed… I was going to include my February goals in this post but it’s got a bit longer than planned, so I’ll leave them for tomorrow – which gives me a little longer to think about them too 😉

Don’t forget to comment below if there’s a particular novel that you would absolutely, definitely recommend I read – I’m open to all and any suggestions and genres (except horror – I don’t do horror)

Thank you if you’ve read this far – the fact that someone might actually read what I write is definitely an incentive to stick to my plans.

The Week in Soap: I made marmalade!

Ok, so I made soap too, but I’m more excited about the marmalade.

I was given 2lbs of Seville oranges last week – the perfect opportunity to indulge in a bit of preserving.  I used a Delia recipe (can’t beat a bit of Delia!) and it proved to be extraordinarily easy: 2lbs of Seville oranges, 1 lemon, 4 pints of water and 4lbs of granulated sugar.  It’s identical to this recipe here, except I took it out of my rather ancient copy of Delia Smith’s Illustrated Cookery Course, which has been my go-to recipe book for years…

Slicing the peel

Slicing the peel

Boiling

Boiling

A motley collection of jars

A motley collection of jars

I’m ridiculously pleased with it – it’s really tasty.

Last week’s adventures in soapmaking was a couple of custom batches – I first made these last year for a local retailer, and they requested more of the same:

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter's Soap

Ar Lan Y Mor / Potter’s Soap

I’ll have some cut photos to show you next week, but in the meantime, here’s a photo of the Potter’s Soap just before cutting – it’s been one of my all time most popular photos on Instagram:

Potter's Soap

Potter’s Soap

Other than the day job I didn’t get much more done this week – I spent a few days under the weather – a bug which turned into a cold – and then I was away over the weekend (hence the late post). Oh, but more wholesale enquiries have come in this week – hopefully I’ll have some good news to share soon.

I’ll be back very soon with a roundup of January’s goals, and a plan for February – thanks for reading!

The Week in Soap: 22nd Jan ’17

The holiday period is well and truly over, and things are starting to pick up again business-wise.  I’ve started receiving orders for Valentine’s themed bars, and the first one was delivered to a local retailer yesterday. Here in Wales we also celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day, considered to be the Welsh St Valentine’s Day) on the 25th January, so there’s a double whammy of love related promotions at this time of year 😀

On the making front I’ve only made two batches this week – a restock of Welsh Rose and an as yet unnamed project for a swap I’m participating in soon. Can’t say too much about that one yet, but all will be revealed eventually 🙂

Welsh Rose & 'No Name' in the mould

Welsh Rose & ‘No Name’ in the mould

So basically I’ve only made one batch for general sale this week – I think I’m going to have to increase the production rate PDQ!

I also cut last week’s Castile soap. Having read so much about how long it can be before it’s hard enough to be unmoulded, I left it a full eight days before unmoulding and cutting, and I was really surprised at how hard it already was.  I had to be very careful and cut slowly, I was so concerned that the wire on my Bud Cutter would snap, but all was well. This was the finished bar:

Castile Soap, first attempt

Castile Soap, first attempt

It’s a lot whiter than I expected it to be when it was first poured, though I’m not too happy about the streaks in it – we’ll see how it looks as it cures.

One of my goals for January was to research facial bar recipes with a view to hopefully making some in February.  During my research I came across a blog/website, Lather Lass, which collects and collates soap recipes from all over the web – it’s worth having a browse if you’re looking for something in particular.

On a personal note, did I mention that I’ve started going to a kickboxing class? Every Wednesday evening, 6-7pm, and it’s amazing. Seriously hard work but I’m hoping it will do wonders for my fitness levels and be a good complement to the running (another of those goals!)

Anyway, talking of goals, it’s time to start thinking about what I want to get done in February, it’ll soon come round!  Thanks for reading – back soon!

Making Castile Soap

Traditional castile soap is made of nothing more than olive oils and a sodium hydroxide solution, and its origins lie in the soap that has been made for many centuries in Aleppo (Syria), from local olive & laurel berry oils. When the recipe was brought to Europe (specifically the Castile area of Spain, with its abundance of olive trees) it would appear that laurel berry oil was hard to come by, leading to it being dropped completely, becoming the 100% olive oil soap that we know today. It’s considered to be the gentlest of soaps – kind to sensitive skin often used as a baby soap (though personally I don’t think very small babies need any soap at all!)

At the beginning of the year I decided to make it one of my goals for January, and hey presto, last week I made my first ever batch of castile.  I don’t always bother with test batches, and I didn’t think an awful lot could go wrong with this one, so dove right in with a full sized batch. The recipe was simply:

  • 1500g Olive Oil
  • 570g Water
  • 193g Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)

I used my usual method – made up the lye solution and left it to cool down to room temperature.  For my regular bars I melt together the hard oils/butters, then add the liquid oils and let it cool down to room temperature, but there was none of that faffing about with this one – I just measured my olive oil out of the bottle and into my mixing bowl.

Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Then added the NaOH and whisked until it was emulsified:

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Oil / NaOH Emulsified

Gave it a bit of a mix with the handblender until it traced:

Soap Batter at Trace

Soap Batter at Trace

And poured it into the mould:

Castile in the mould

Castile in the mould

I knew from my reading that I probably wouldn’t be able to unmould / cut after my usual 48 day wait, so I left it a little longer, then kind of forgot about it for a couple of days (oops) and eventually unmoulded it 8 days after it was poured. I was happy to note that it was a lot whiter than it originally appeared to be:

Castile 8 days later

Castile 8 days later

Perhaps I’ll only leave it three or four days next time as it was the hardest batch I’ve ever cut, and I feared for the wire on my poor Bud soap cutter.  I took it slowly, and the end result was this:

Castile freshly cut

Castile freshly cut

The usual recommendation is to allow castile soap to cure for a good six months, if not more, as it’s notoriously slow to harden. I’m not convinced though, and will be testing it often in the next few months to see how it’s developing.

By the way, I’ve never actually used castile soap myself. The things I’ve heard haven’t always been particularly positive – the lather has even been described as ‘slimy’, so I’m going to (try to) put the opinions of others out of my head and be as objective as possible.  Stay tuned and I’ll keep you updated 🙂

The Week in Soap: 15th Jan ’17

It’s been another fairly quiet week in the soapmaking cave this week.  I cut the bars that I made last Sunday, and I made another three batches, one of which was the Castile that I’ve been promising myself that I’ll make for many months. (It would seem that this monthly goals malarkey is working!) I also did a full stock check and tidied up the soap store. I haven’t yet found a fool-proof stock control method, and I don’t always keep proper track of what’s been sold (*red face*) but I’m back on track now and have a good handle on what needs making next.

Of last Sunday’s three batches I only photographed two immediately after cutting. I didn’t bother with the Clarity that got a little too thick to make pretty drops – still great soap but not worth sharing lol.  First up is the soap made with a new-to-me fragrance oil called ‘Flora’.  It still doesn’t have a name, though I’m leaning towards Daisy or something…  Despite the fast acceleration it’s not as ‘ploppy’ (apologies, but it’s as descriptive a word as I can come up with for this effect :-D) as I expected it to be – this is a good thing!

Spring soap

Spring soap – ‘Daisy’ perhaps?

And the First Kiss:

First Kiss

First Kiss

Due to the high levels of vanillin in the fragrance oil the white drops will discolour to tan, and the brown drops will discolour to dark brown, but the pink should stay pink as I didn’t add any fragrance to that portion.  I’ll post it again in a few weeks time to show you the full effect.

On Thursday evening I made another three batches, Boho Baby, the aforementioned Castile, and Delicious:

Boho Baby, Castile & Boho Baby

Boho Baby, Castile & Boho Baby

And  a close up of Delicious, because I love it so much – this FO always behaves itself so well…

Delicious in the mould

Delicious in the mould

Oh and guess what?! Halfway through the month and I’ve already run 50km – I’m rocking those goals!!

Thanks for reading – back soon!

 

Tooth Soap, a review

Have you ever somehow got soap in your mouth? It’s not generally considered to be a nice experience, indeed once upon a time, actively washing out someone’s mouth with soap was done as a punishment.  It’s a phrase that’s still heard today, but I thought it to be a largely apocryphal phenomenon – surely nobody would force soap into another’s mouth?  A quick fact check via Wikipedia confirmed that yes, they really did, and for relatively minor transgressions such as chewing tobacco, using foul language or being intoxicated. Well recently, I’ve been voluntarily and eagerly brushing my teeth with soap, and let me tell you, it’s been a revelation.

To backtrack a little, some time before Christmas I entered into a product swap with an Instagram friend of mine, the lovely Sabine of Cebra Ethical Skincare. I saw an IG post of her for Tooth Soap Paste and really wanted to give it a try, and she was kind enough to agree to swap some of my soap for a bottle of her paste:

Tooth Soap Paste

Tooth Soap Paste / Wooden Vegan Toothbrush

As you can see from the photo, she also sent me one of her vegan wooden toothbrushes as a little added extra, which was incredibly kind of her.

Anyway, I’d been curious about tooth soap for a while.  I’d heard about it of course – the world of soapmaking isn’t that big and I’d seen it discussed in various forums. I really really wanted to try it, but I wasn’t certain it would be for me.  To begin with there’s that whole ‘soap in the mouth’ thing going on (because let’s be clear here, this isn’t just ‘natural toothpaste’, it’s bona fide tooth SOAP, made with saponified oils, just like the soap I make).  I also – wrongly, as it turned out – had this vague notion that it belonged in the realms of hippydom and was the preserve of lentil weavers and crunchy mommas.

Well, thank heavens I got round to trying it, because I absolutely love it. It IS a different experience to using the regular toothpaste that most of us are used to, but in a good way. The main differences are:

  1. The biggie I guess is the flavour.  Sabine uses a clever blend of grapefruit, peppermint and myrrh essential oils to flavour the paste and add other benefits such as freshening the breath, and she doesn’t use any sweeteners.  Consequently the paste tastes very different to commercially made toothpaste, but it does NOT taste ‘soapy’.  To me it’s a very cleansing, refreshing flavour.
  2.  Another big difference is that the tooth soap paste doesn’t contain any foaming agent, and so you won’t get the mouthful of toothpaste bubbles that you get with commercial toothpaste.  Those bubbles are made by adding sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) to the toothpaste, and a quick internet search will give you hundreds of sites telling you how bad these two are supposed to be for us.  Trust me, once you get used to the lack of bubbles, you won’t miss them.
  3. A third difference, and a big plus for me, is how much cleaner the whole of my mouth feels after using this paste.  My teeth feel super-smooth clean, much more so than when I use regular toothpaste, and my whole mouth feels refreshed in a way I just didn’t expect.
  4. A minor difference – Sabine recommends that you put the paste onto a dry toothbrush and brush immediately. Don’t add water before brushing.  I confess that sometimes I’m on automatic pilot prior to brushing my teeth and automatically run the brush under the tap before brushing but mostly these days I remember not to.  It does make a difference

I continue to enjoy using this product immensely. Yes, it’s a little pricier than regular mass produced toothpaste, but it’s handmade, it’s vegan, it’s organic, it’s ethical (check out the facts), it’s VERY effective and it lasts for aaaaaages. Really, what more could you want? If you’ve ever been curious about trying tooth soap then I would urge you to try Sabine’s first – I’m very glad I did!

You can find Cebra Ethical Skincare on the web here , on Facebook here , on Twitter here, and on Instagram here.

Please Note – I was NOT given a free sample to review, and all views are entirely my own.

The Week in Soap: 8th Jan ’17

Where did the week go?  The first week of January has come and gone, and it’s time for me to get back into the habit of weekly updates – it’s been a whole month since I last did one of these!

It’s been a fairly quiet week, but I have managed to make a start on restocking the shelves – last Monday saw me making the first two batches of the year, Oatmeal Milk & Honey (OMH) and Serenity:

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

Oatmeal Milk & Honey / Serenity

I had this crazy idea that I’d try the Thermal Transfer method for the OMH, and as I could have predicted had I thought about it for longer than a couple of seconds, it didn’t go so well (keep an eye out for another post on that little adventure very soon).  These have now been cut but I’ve not got round to taking any photographs yet (and to be honest, I’m not sure I want to take photographs of the OMH – seriously, it’s a bit of a hot mess…) but there’ll be some up on my Instagram (@thesoapmine) account soon enough.

Tonight I made another three batches. The left hand one is a brand new (to me) Fragrance Oil called Flora, which I’ve done in white, yellow and green (thoughts of spring already…), then we have restocks of First Kiss and Clarity.

Soap in the mould

Soap in the mould

The soaping gremlins were well and truly out to play tonight. The only one to behave properly was First Kiss. Clarity really surprised me by thickening up super-quick. Not sure why – same recipe, same colours and same ratio of eo’s, although the lye water was possibly cooler than usual so it’s likely that was the cause. Anyway, I can usually get wispy drops in this one, but tonight it was a bit, hmmmm, ‘ploppy’.  And Flora…well, it’s a floral fragrance, notoriously bad for acceleration, so I wasn’t entirely unprepared. I used extra water with the lye, and tried not to over mix but it was still thicker than I would have liked, so my dropswirl was a bit, well, ploppy again.  Ho hum, these two won’t be perfect but they WILL smell flippin’ gorgeous!!! 😀

In other news I’ve confirmed a new customer with a sizeable order for my mini guest bars, and I’ve taken a booking to do one of my soap talks in a few months time, so all in all it’s been a productive week.

Hope you’ve all had a great week. Thanks for reading – back soon!