March Goals Revisited

Is anyone else incredulous that we’re a quarter of the way through 2017 already? I’m still recovering from Christmas, really should be thinking about my summer specials, and yet I’ve been so busy this last few months that I’m still playing catch up, stock-wise… March also saw the first of my monthly craft fairs, and the first of my weekly Thursday evening soaping presentations… I may be setting the scene here for what’s coming next 😀 😀

Right, so, at the beginning of the month I set out my goals for March. February wasn’t the most successful month goals wise (though rather good business-wise, so who’s complaining?) and I was convinced I could do better this month.  I intended to:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. ASAP…
  • Make a test batch of facial soap
  • Post 8 times on the blog

I’ve not got round to the Line Sheet. It’s been on my mind constantly, and I’ve come up with a workaround for the time being – within the next week or so I’ll write a blog post outlining my core range.  Once that’s posted I can send the link to anyone enquiring, and then when the time comes to design the Line Sheet I’ll have all the info in one place, ready to go.

Nor have I managed to make the facial soap. Oh, this one is frustrating me.  I REALLY want to get down to it, but each soaping session I manage to carve out of my week is devoted to core range soap and getting stock levels up. It’s going back onto the goals list for April, and I think I have a chance of actually doing it *crosses fingers*

But the third goal?  Write eight blog posts? Phew – including this one, I wrote ten – yey!!

My personal goals were to run 30km and to read. Read anything, and for any length of time.  I only managed to run 24km, but considering I’ve not been for a run since the 19th of the month, I don’t think that’s too bad.  I’ve spent some time this month training for (and earning) my yellow kickboxing belt, so I’ve not exactly been idle lol.

I have read. Not a lot, but on the few evenings I’ve managed to get to bed before midnight I’ve picked up a book and got through a few pages before my husband gently lifts the book away and switches of my bedsight light because I’ve fallen asleep… I’ve realised that I’m not Superwoman, I can’t do everything that I’d LOVE to do, never mind the things that I’d like to do, so if I can, I will, but reading is coming off my goals list.

Thanks for reading, April goals to follow soon.

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The PERFECT Yorkshire Puddings (I promise!)

Yorkshire puds. Those crispy, crunchy yet soft in the middle mopper-uppers of homemade gravy are the perfect accompaniment to a Sunday (or-any-otherday) Roast.  They’re traditionally served with roast beef, but I’d be very unpopular in our house if I dared serve ANY type of roast without Yorkshire puddings.  Luckily I have the perfect, fail-safe recipe to guarantee golden crispy loveliness each and every time:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

When I posted a few weeks ago that I’d made some Yorkshire Puddings, Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps challenged me to post the recipe so that she could decide for herself whether it truly is foolproof, so here it is! I hope more of you will give it a try too.

To make 12 delicious Yorkshire Puddings you’ll need:

  • 150g plain  (all purpose) flour
  • 300ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 2 medium sized eggs
  • plenty of salt & pepper
  • lard (for cooking)

Pre-heat oven to 230c / fan 210c / gas 8

Whisk the two eggs into the milk, and season the flour well with the salt and pepper.

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Seasoned flour and eggs whisked into milk

Slowly beat the eggy milk into the flour until it’s all combined:

Milk & flour combined

Milk & flour combined

then pour it into a jug and let it sit for half an hour. (When I’ve been in a hurry I have made them without letting them sit for very long and not noticed much difference in the result, but I still  let it stand if I can):

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

Batter in a jug, ready to pour

After half an hour or so, put a generous knob of lard into each cavity of a 12 cavity muffin tin:

Muffin tin with lard

Muffin tin with lard

then place the tray into the preheated oven and let it get smoking hot. Really, REALLY hot.  Take the tray out of oven and place it on the hob, over some heat – the aim is to prevent the lard from cooling down before/while you pour the batter.

Pour the batter into each cavity of the tray, filling them about two thirds full.  If you have a little left over top up some of the cavities – it doesn’t matter if some are fuller than others.  While your pouring you should see that the fat is so hot that the batter begins sizzling and bubbling immediately:

Sizzling pudding batter

Sizzling pudding batter

Pop the tray straight into the hot oven, and cook for approx 25 minutes, or until they’re puffed up, brown and crispy. Keep an eye on their progress, they might take a little less time, they might take a little longer, but at this high temperature they could burn quite quickly if you leave them in too long.  Oh, and don’t open the over door before the cooking time is up, or they’ll collapse…

I took some snaps of my last lot every five minutes or so – apologies for the picture quality, the oven door doesn’t make for a great window!

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 1

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 2

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 3

Yorkshire Puds 4

Yorkshire Puds 4

Serve as soon as possible after taking out of the oven:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

There – told you it was easy! There is absolutely NO excuse to buy ready made Yorkshire Puddings ever gain 😀

The Week in Soap: 26th March ’17 – BATHBOMBS!!!

Yesterday (Saturday) brought the first craft fair of the year, and a lot of last week was spent wrapping and labelling in preparation.  It also saw the first outing for my bathbombs, which are FINALLY available for sale. I’ve been so busy dispatching wholesale orders and restocking the curing shelves that creating labels for my bathbombs was never a priority – until the night before the craft fair 😮  I took just four varieties – Clarity, Serenity, Lavender and Bewitched (was LoveSpell):

Bathbombs, all wrapped up

Bathbombs, all wrapped up

I was busy Mon, Tues, Wed evenings this week, so couldn’t make soap until Thursday night, and then realised that I was so low on Olive Oil I could only make a two batches of Boho Baby (fragranced with Patchouli & Orange essential oils):

Boho Baby (Patchouli & Orange)

Boho Baby

Friday evening was spent wrapping bathbombs for the fair on Saturday, so I wasn’t able to make more until this evening, but I made up with it with two double batches of Serenity (Patchouli, Ylang Ylang, Orange & Lemon essential oils) and Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime essential oils):

Serenity (left) & Botanica

Serenity (left) & Botanica

I now officially a yellow belt kickboxer!  I went through my first ever grading on Monday evening. I had no idea what to expect and it was intense – I arrived home bruised, exhausted and ravenous, but I absolutely loved it, and I’m ridiculously proud of my yellow belt:

Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Kickboxing Yellow Belt

Orange belt, I’m coming for ya!!

 

 

 

The Week in Soap: 19th March ’17

I missed last week’s weekly update completely, so this is me, trying to do better 😀

It’s been another busy week.  I dispatched boxes of soap to not one but two new wholesale customers and delivered another order to a more local ‘new yet old’ customer.  More on them all in a ‘Stockists’ update coming next week.

My new, double batch system of soapmaking is working really well.  Last week I made soap on Tuesday evening last night, Sunday, making 8 batches, or 120 bars in all. This my absolute minimum for a week, and I’m still struggling to get stock levels back up to where I’m comfortable:

Scrubby Peppermint & Bewitched

Scrubby Peppermint & Bewitched

Luscious Lavender & Clarity

Luscious Lavender & Clarity

The lucky winner  of the Facebook giveaway was announced earlier on this evening. I was overwhelmed by the number of entries and the lovely comments left on the page.  I’ll be running another giveway at some point, so make sure you like and follow the page if you’d like to win some of my soap.

This was my most popular post on Instagram this week, with a whopping 473 likes. We got a bit of sunshine on Wednesday, so I took full advantage.  It’s rained almost non-stop ever since 😦

Welsh Rose in the sun

Welsh Rose in the sun

On Saturday I spent all day in the office wrapping and labelling while my other half took care of the kids, so today was more of a family day, though I did manage to fit in a 5km run. (we’re not having February happen all over again, ohhhhh no!!)  This evening I cooked a traditional roast dinner, including Yorkshire puddings. I’m kind of proud of my Yorkshires, but I’m guessing they’re not eaten (or even known about?) much outside of the UK so I thought I’d share a quick snap:

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshire Puddings

They are, I promise you, delicious, and if anyone wants to know how I make them (and my recipe method will give you perfect ones EVERY TIME) then just let me know and I’ll happily share 😀

Coming up next week I will (of course!) be making more soap, and testing and reporting on the Castile I made a couple of months ago. I need to write a new ‘Stockists’ post as there are now a few more on the list, and I also have the first craft fair of the year coming up next Saturday, so bathbomb labelling needs to be a priority.  Add into the mix my first ever kickboxing grading on Monday evening (the next time I post, I may well be a Yellow Belt – eek!!), and a pre-school committee meeting on Tuesday evening, and suddenly the week doesn’t feel so long arrgghhhhh!!!

Thanks for reading, back soon!!

Castile, a quick update

I made the first batch of Castile soap back in mid January and, while convention dictates that it should cure for at least 6 months before use, the devil on my shoulder insisted that I try it out this week, a mere 10 weeks later.

I helped myself to the thickest of the end pieces, and snapped a quick photo:

Castile 10 weeks in...

Castile 10 weeks in…

It’s already a very hard bar, easily as hard as my regular bars after their full 6 week cure. This surprised me somewhat as I’d read that one of the reasons for curing for so long is because it needs longer to harden up.

Detractors of Castile soap often use the word ‘slimy’ to describe it, so I wasn’t expecting too much when I lathered up.  I ran a little warm water and started turning the bar over and over in my hands.  After a few initial biggish bubbles, the lather soon settled into a creamy lather with very small bubbles, an almost lotion type texture. I would definitely describe the feel of the bar as ‘silky’ rather than the ‘slimy’! I would have got a photo or a quick video but there were no spare hands around 😀 After rinsing and drying my hands felt soft and smooth, and I can see why Castile soap is recommended for dry or sensitive skin.

I’ve spoken to other soapmakers who say that they’re more than happy to use their Castile soap before the traditional 6 month cure is up. Others tell me that there’s a distinct difference in the texture of the lather if the soap is left for the full 6 months (or longer). I’m going to enroll an extra pair of hands to help and get a couple of photos or a video of the lather as it is now, and again in two and four months time. I should then have a better idea of the beneficial effect (or otherwise!) of the extended cure time.

If you have any thoughts about Castile soap, be they be for or against, please post below – I’d love to hear from you.

 

Friday Favourite: OMG Serum by LJ Natural

Way back at the end of January I was lucky enough to win a prize draw run by Lisa of LJ Naturals.  Lisa makes handmade, organic beauty products and the draw (run on her Facebook page) was to win this lovely lot of goodies:

OMG Serum plus mini products

OMG Serum plus mini products

The prize comprised of mini Organic Deep Cleansing Balm, mini Organic Moisturiser, mini Organic Scratchy Balm and the star of the show (for me), a full sized (30ml) OMG (Organic Miracle Goddess) Serum.

Now, a bit of background. During my teens and twenties, I suffered (first world problems!) from fairly oily skin. Spots were common, and the battle against ‘shine’ was constant.  During that period of my life I would have recoiled in horror at the thought of putting oil of any type on my face, but at some point during my thirties that’s exactly what I did. I was persuaded to try an expensive, fancy facial oil by a very convincing sales assistant in some smart department store. I kinda liked it.  I was surprised by how good it felt on my skin (which by this point had edged towards the middle of the skin spectrum, and was probably kind of ‘normal’). But for some reason I never finished that bottle. Guess I didn’t like it that much eh?

These days I think I’m reaping the benefits of that oily skin early on as I have relatively few wrinkles for my age (though looking at my mum, genetics have played a part in that too). But, now that I’m in my mid *cough cough* forties, I definitely feel that my skin needs a little extra help.  I’ve used the same popular, mass produced day moisturiser for a few years, but rarely get around to using any night time products as, to be honest, I don’t really have a night time routine other than a quick wipe over with one of those cheap facial cleansing wipe type things <Blush> (To be honest, my regular morning routine isn’t generally any better – I use a facial wash in the shower, then apply, without fail, a slather of moisturiser).

All this preamble is my way of saying that until recently I didn’t really ‘do’ skincare products, and was unconvinced as to their efficacy. Well that sure has changed. And what was it that changed my mind I hear you ask? If you guessed it was one of Lisa’s products, you’d be right.  I have fallen utterly and totally in love with her OMG Serum.

OMG Serum is made from a careful blend of 7 natural oils and butters, and fragranced with nothing more than pure essential oils.  That’s it. It’s 100% natural and 99% organic.  It’s supplied in an airless pump, which makes dispensing completely mess / spill free, and removes the need for an added preservative (as bacteria cannot transfer from hands to the product).

When I first started using the serum, about 6 weeks ago, I used one single pump worth, once a day.  It (unsurprisingly!) has an oily texture as it goes on, gliding silkily over, and into, the skin. For that reason, in the early days, I tended to avoid using it in the morning as I wasn’t too sure how my tinted BB cream (I don’t use foundation) would fare on top of it.  However, a couple of weeks in, I realised that the serum was absoutely not sitting on the surface of the skin. It was being completely absorbed, leaving no trace of ‘shine’ on my face.  This was  a revelation. I tried applying my BB cream about 10/15 mins after applying the serum.  Still no shine. Happy days! Since then I’ve been using it after my shower/facial wash routine every morning.

I cannot overstate how good my skin feels these days.  It’s perfectly moisturised all day (I don’t use the mass produced moisturiser any more) and looks healthier, plumper, softer, more elastic.  This morning, I applied the serum (two pumps a time these days folks, just because…), waited 15 mins, brushed on the teeniest bit of transluscent powder, and off I went.  That’s how good my skin is these days.

Let’s talk hard figures.  OMG Serum retails on Lisa’s website for £17.95 for 30ml, and should be used within 6 months of opening.  I reckon I’ve used about 1/8 of it so far, but of course I’m using much more of it now than I was in the beginning, so I reckon there may well be about 6 months worth in there.  If there’s less, it won’t be much less, and if there’s more, well I’ve never worried TOO much about use by dates, so if it lasts me 7-8 months, I won’t worry too much about it.  So assuming one uses approximately two 30ml containers a year, that’s  £35.90 a year for the most amazing results – an absolute snip!  (And I just checked – that fancy pants facial oil that I tried years back? Retails for £33 for 30ml today, and it’s nowhere near as good, take my word).

For those cynics out there (I know you’re there, I’m one myself :-D) please be aware that although I didn’t pay for this product, I won it fair and square in a prize draw (check out the post on the 31st Jan on her FB page) and at no point has Lisa asked for my opinion on it, or asked me write a review.  I’m simply a total convert, and will be buying more when the time comes.

If you’d like to know more about the OMG Serum you’ll find it here on the LJ Natural website.

You can follow LJ Naturals on Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you Lisa for an amazing prize!  Oh, and I nearly forgot, the mini samples were fab too, but as you already know, I’m a bit crap with the whole cleanser / toner routine <blush again>.

It’s Competition Time Again

It got to Monday evening of this week before I even realised that I hadn’t written my weekly round up. It’s been incredibly busy again, lots of making and wrapping and dispatching, but nothing really new, so I’ll catch up next Sunday.  I’ve also got loads of different draft posts lined up, but am struggling to find the time to write them up properly. Ah well, first world problems…

In the meantime I’m running a prize draw all this week on my Facebook page. This is how it works: I post one photo a day for five days, Monday through to Friday, and all you need to do to be in with a chance of winning any FIVE different bars of luxury essential oil soap is to like the page, then like and comment on each of the five photos in the draw.  This is where we’re up to so far:

Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage)

Clarity (Lemongrass & Clary Sage)

Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime)

Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime)

Serenity (Ylang ylang, Patchouli, Lemon & Orange

Serenity (Ylang ylang, Patchouli, Lemon & Orange

It doesn’t matter at all that we’re halfway through the week already, you can add likes and comments at any point up to Sunday, 19th March at 7pm GMT.

The winner will be chosen at random on Sunday evening from all those who have liked the page and liked and commented on each of the five prize draw photographs.

The draw is open worldwide, and I’ll even cover postage costs, but you’ve got to be in it to win it, so what are you waiting for? 😀  www.facebook.com/TheSoapMine 

Good luck!!

 

Teisen Gri – Traditional Welsh Cakes – A Recipe

Teisen Gri (literally translated – Griddle Cakes) are traditional Welsh cakes that we make and enjoy all year, and especially around the 1st March when we celebrate St David’s Day (the patron saint of Wales).  Last week I took a break from soaping and made (another) batch of deliciousness…

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

They’re similar to a fruit scone, but flatter and cooked on a griddle over direct heat. Traditionally they’re dusted with caster sugar after cooking, but I usually skip that step. They are honestly utterly delicious – perfect to have with a cup of tea, and they’ll keep a good few days in an airtight container. They don’t tend to last that long in our house though! I posted the above picture on the blog a while back, and I’ve been asked a couple of times since for the recipe, so here goes. This recipe makes 20 – 30 Teisen Gri, depending on the size of the cutter you use.

Ingredients:

  • 225g salted butter (lard is a traditional alternative – I always use butter)
  • 450g self raising flour
  • 0.5tsp mixed powdered spice
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 170g mixed dried fruit  (currants are traditionally used)
  • 2 eggs

Method:

  1. Rub together the flour and the butter until they are the consistency of breadcrumbs. I usually do mine in a food processor:
Flour & Butter

Flour & Butter

2. Mix in the mixed spices, sugar and the mixed fruit:

Don’t forget the mixed spices – makes a huge difference to the final flavour

Sugar

Sugar

Mixed Fruit

Mixed Fruit

3. Add the two eggs and mix:

Add the eggs

Add the eggs

Mixed

Mix

4. Bring it all together on a floured surface, adding a little more flour IF it feels too sticky to roll out:

Dough ready to roll

Dough ready to roll

5. Roll out the dough to about 0.75cm.  Many recipes say 1cm thickness, and while personally I find this a little too thick, it’s trial and error to find what suits you. I neglected to take a photo of this stage – sorry!

6. Cut out rounds using a fluted scone cutter, and place on a pre-heated griddle. Don’t grease the griddle – dry is best.  A thick bottomed frying pan would work if you don’t have a griddle:

Cooking on the griddle

Cooking on the griddle

7. After a couple of minutes, when the underside has developed a nice dark colour (some of these below should really have been darker) flip over and cook on the other side:

Flip

Flip

8. Once they’re cooked and nicely browned on both sides, place on a cooling tray and, if desired, dredge with castor sugar.  Enjoy hot or cold, with or without butter.

I’ll be back on topic with my next post, but even soapers have to eat eh? Let me know if you give these a try (and what you think of them!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week in Soap: 5th March ’17

I got back into the swing of making soap this week. Having realised that I need to be making far more to keep up with demand, a new process was required.    Previously I would usually make three different batches during an evening’s soaping, once a week, but the new routine is four batches a night, twice a week. By doubling up the batches – ie making two lots of two fragrances, rather than three lots of one, I find I can make the four batches as quickly as three, if not faster.

Wednesday was the first day of the new regime – two lots of Welsh Rose and two lots of Bewitched on the cards.  But, wouldn’t you know it, I ran out of lye. Arghhhh – I felt sure I had a second tub but nope…  Nevermind, I had enough for three batches: two Bewitched and one Welsh Rose:

2 Bewitched, 1 Welsh Rose

Two Bewitched, One Welsh Rose

More lye was ordered and arrived within 48 hours, so I was able to make more today – two lots of Oatmeal, Milk & Honey and two of Blodau (Flowers):

2 OMH & 2 Blodau

Two OMH & Two Blodau (Flowers)

I clearly need to have a better handle on inventory.  I do have have the Soapmaker 3 program, which comes highly recommended, but haven’t got round to using it yet. :-/ Maybe that should be one of April’s goals.

This week I also delivered another couple of batches of ‘Ar Lan y Mor’ (By the Sea) and Potters’ Soap – exclusive fragrances/designs for Glosters in Porthmadog:

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters' Soap

Ar Lan y Mor / Potters’ Soap

I also finished off wrapping and packaging the mini guest bars for Plas Colwyn Guest House right here in the village – these are just a small selection of them:

Mini Guest Bars

Mini Guest Bars

We celebrated St David’s Day on Wednesday, and as is traditional, I made up a big batch of Teisen Gri (Welsh Cakes) for the village school show.

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

I’ve been asked again to share the recipe, so I’m planning on getting that written up this week and posted here on the blog.

This is my little three year old in her traditional ‘welsh lady’ costume, singing her heart out at the front of the stage. She’s normally pretty shy, so it was wonderful to see her enjoying her moment in the limelight…

Little Welsh Lady

Little Welsh Lady

 

I also managed to get out for ONE run this week – 5km on Friday morning. If you saw the post about my goals for March, you’ll know that I want to run at least 30km this month. Easily doable, IF I can get my running mojo back where it was in January. Throw some motivation my way?

 

The Sad Story of February’s Goals…

Remember a month ago when I posted about my success regarding January’s goals? It had been a good month but, was I too full of hubris? Was I perhaps a little smug? Were February’s goals desperately ambitious and unattainable? I can only assume so because, my friends, February was a washout. Suddenly (seriously, without warning :-D) the end of the month arrived and was devoid of goal success.

So, here’s how bad it was:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. Oops Still need to do this asap
  • Make a test batch of facial soap Oops Still want to do this asap
  • Make 3 Spring Special soaps Oops Have decided against this – I’m struggling to keep up with the core range at the moment
  • Post 8 times on the blog  Oops Only 6 posts in February 😦

The personal goals weren’t much better. I was aiming to run 50km during February, and actually managed *ahem* 12km.  I seriously lost my running mojo very early in the month.  I’ve missed it though, and have arranged to go with a friend tomorrow morning, so hopefully I’ll get back into it soon enough.  I also wanted to read more. Well, I have read more, but still not a whole book, so back to the drawing board with that one too.  Lastly, I wanted to do some baking.  Well that much I did do. I make a rather lovely Victoria sponge (but rubbish photograph) for my mum’s birthday, and a couple of batches of Welsh Cakes (which I’m going to post about very soon!)

Victoria Sponge

Victoria Sponge

Welsh Cakes

Welsh Cakes

So, a couple of small wins in a big sea of fails un-met challenges 😀

I’m not, however, despondent. By no means.  I’ve been ridiculously busy during February.  I’ve taken on two new BIG wholesale customers, and I’ve been snowed under with making, wrapping and labelling.  It’s all good stuff, but it does feel like I’m running to stay still, so I firmly believe that goals are still a good and necessary thing, helping to keep me challenged and moving forward.  To that end, I’m going to reset last months business goals, excluding the one about Spring specials:

  • Create a wholesale Line Sheet.  Wholesale enquiries are increasing and this is a high priority ‘must have’. ASAP…
  • Make a test batch of facial soap
  • Post 8 times on the blog

And as far as personal goals go, I’m going back to basics – run 30km and read a book. That’s it.  I’m taking part in a Library Bingo Challenge which is encouraging me to get to the library more often, and which might motivate me to find the time to read more often, but I’ll post about that another time.

Wish me luck! I’ll be back soon – I will smash that ‘8 post goal’ this month LOL