The Week in Soap: 16th Sept ’18 – Wherein I mention the ‘C’ Word

My first full week back at work after the school holidays flew by SO quickly, but I did finally round to starting the Christmas range (yup, THAT ‘C’ word). I’m a bit later this year than last so I have some catching up to do.

Monday saw me making the first batch of Christmas bars – a reprise of Candy Cane which has gone down so well over the last few holiday periods.  I also made some Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands) to restock the shelves. Winter and Summer in one soapy session!

Candy Cane & Traeth in the Mould

Candy Cane & Traeth in the Mould

Facial bar in the mould

Facial bar in the mould

I also made another batch of the facial bar. I need to get to a point where I’ve always got it in stock, rather than selling out, which is what’s happening at the moment!

Tuesday was a wrapping and labelling kind of day. I also spent some time researching more stockist possibilities. I’d like to get a map up on my office wall with all my current stockists marked on there so that I can easily see any obvious gaps in the local area before setting my sights a little further afield…

On Wednesday morning I went to my monthly networking group, Women Working Together. It’s predominantly a women’s group (but men are by no means excluded) and I’m finding it invaluable for so many reasons, not least the fact that it’s really good to take time out every now and then to be sociable (a must when working alone!).  The support of others in a similar position, and the wealth of advice and insights that they’re willing to share, are a huge benefit too of course!

I didn’t have much time left in the afternoon before the school pick up but I did manage to unmould and cut the soap that I made on Monday. I only took photos of the freshly cut Candy Cane (I’m not happy with this red by the way – I didn’t use enough red colourant. The next batch will be better)

Freshly cut Candy Cane

Freshly cut Candy Cane

Thursday was spent in the office again, and writing up the results of the fragrance oil testing I did for Blossom Oils.  Friday saw MORE soapmaking!  Two soapmaking days in one week – woop!  Four loaves, or 60 bars, of Warm Gingerbread (the second of the Christmas bars) and another loaf of the facial bar. Apologies for the rubbish photo ;-D

Facial bar / 4 loaves of Warm Gingerbread

Facial bar / 4 loaves of Warm Gingerbread

There was a bit of a first for me over on Instagram last week – this photo here got over 1,000 likes. ONE THOUSAND!! I don’t understand why, but I’m not complaining lol…

Guest Bars

Guest Bars

And on a personal note, another first – my first brown belt in kickboxing, 20 months after I threw my first punch.  It’s going to take even longer to get through all the browns though, but with lots of determination, and a little bit of luck *crosses fingers*, I’ll get there:

First brown belt

First brown belt

The weekend was spent in non-soapy, family pursuits, including the longest bike ride we’ve yet undertaken as Team Hinde – 7km  Don’t forget that the little one is only five, with an ungeared little bike, so this was a fair distance for her. She did so well!

Bike Ride

Bike Ride

Sadly my husband didn’t do quite so well and fell off his bike, injuring himself, right near the beginning. Being the trooper that he is he soldiered on, but probably shouldn’t have, given that he had to be taken to the local hospital the following day, oops! PS see that bridge there? Built in 1798!!!

Thanks for reading, back soon…

 

 

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Fragrance Oil Testing – Blossom Oils

Back in August I was contacted by Blossom Oils and asked whether I would be interested in testing some of their fragrance oils in return for feedback. I didn’t need to think about it for long – I don’t often get the opportunity to experiment and play with fragrances these days. There are a few reasons for this.  Firstly, I have a core range of fragrances which I have to keep in stock for my wholesale customers – it would be way too confusing and time consuming to keep switching out fragrances. Secondly, fragrance oils are expensive, and especially so when buying in small quantities to trial.  I bulk-buy my fragrance oils for the core range to keep costs to a minimum.  Thirdly, there’s always a risk involved in trying a new fragrance oil – it might accelerate trace (soap on a stick anyone?), it might discolour, and there’s always the chance that you just might not like the smell. Years ago I bought a dupe of Lush’s Karma fragrance and OMG it was vile. Horrible. I can still remember it. I really wish I couldn’t….

Anyway, I digress.  I happily accepted their kind offer, and received eight, EIGHT!!! samples of fragrance oils in the post very soon after:

Blossom Oils FO

Blossom Oils FO

Oooh the joys of new fragrances to sniff.  Anyone else an inveterate sniffer?  I can’t help myself.  Shampoos, perfumes, and of course, fragrance oils. I was in scenty heaven. Here’s what I was sent, in alphabetical order:

  1. Amaretto Nog
  2. Dove
  3. FBomb  (Similar to Flower Bomb perfume)
  4. Lavender
  5. Opulence (Similar to Decadence perfume)
  6. Sea Breeze & Mint (Similar to a men’s shower gel)
  7. Warm Mulberry
  8. Wild Berries

I had cheekily asked whether one of the samples could be FBomb as Flower Bomb is one of my favourite perfumes, and I also suggested that they include a Christmas fragrance or two.  Unfortunately their Christmas fragrances weren’t yet available, but they did send the Amaretto and Mulberry as options that could be considered ‘wintery’.

So. First thoughts, sniffing from the bottle:

  1. The Amaretto was LOVELY, but then I do like a little glass of Amaretto over ice at Christmas.  Almondy and sweet, I really liked it.
  2. Dove.  I’ll be honest, I thought this was a strange one to have included in the eight. I can’t bear Dove ‘so-called soap’. (It’s not soap, it’s a beauty bar, because they’re not allowed to call it soap. Rant over).  So anyway, the last thing I would choose to put into my soap is something that would make it smell like Dove. But in the interests of fairness and honesty, I’ll treat it like any other FO, and it DOES smell like Dove.
  3. FBomb.  This definitely reminded me of the perfume straight out of the bottle. So far so good.
  4. Lavender.  I usually use lavender essential oil for my lavender soap, and I found this fragrance to be slightly more ‘powdery’ and slightly sweeter than the EO.
  5. Opulence.  This smells really  good out of the bottle. I’m not familiar with the original perfume, but this was lovely, a nice blend of floral and spice.
  6. Sea Breeze and Mint. Again, I’m not familiar with the inspiration for this one, but it’s a nice unisex fragrance, and the mint definitely came through without taking over.
  7. Warm Mulberry  Definitely warm, definitely fruity, a real winter scent.
  8. Wild Berries. Another fruity fragrance, but ‘clearer’ than the previous one, juicy, sweet and berry-like.

Every single one was good out of the bottle. Even the Dove, which I would never choose to use, did in all fairness, smell of Dove.

So I made some soap.  I made a single batch of my regular recipe, with full water, because I wanted all the fragrances to be tested under exactly the same conditions, so it made sense to make all the testers out of the same base batch.

I added my chosen colourant to eight different containers, brought my batter just to emulsification, and then split it between the eight containers:

Soapmaking in Progress

Soapmaking in Progress

I gave them all a quick stir manually, then added 3% fragrance oil to the first jug.  I gave it a thorough stir, made sure it was traced, then poured it into the mould. I did exactly the same with the other seven fragrances.

Testers In the mould

Testers In the mould

The testers are the ones with letters above them, just in case I forgot which was which. Ignore the bottom four on the right hand side, they’re leftovers…

The Sea Breeze & Mint (blue one above) caused some acceleration, but not too much, and the Lavender (lavender one above) caused slight acceleration. That surprised me somewhat as, although florals are known to cause acceleration, if anything I find that Lavender essential oil inhibits trace. But it really was only slight acceleration.  None of the other FO’s caused noticeable acceleration, which was pretty impressive.

They were unmoulded after 36 hours, and this photo was taken a couple of weeks later:

Unmoulded soaps

Unmoulded soaps

It was around this time that I realised that I’d made a mistake by using colourants as it’s much harder to tell what discolouration is going on if the soap is already coloured. Regardless, it seems to me that only one of the fragrances caused any discolouration at all, and that was the Amaretto Nog.  To be fair, the fragrance description  is “A creamy blend of almond and vanilla”  and any fragrance containing vanilla is guaranteed to cause discolouration, so it was only to be expected.

So the big question. How do they smell after a few weeks cure time? Here’s my thoughts:

  1. Amaretto Nog. This smells lovely, but it no longer smells, to me at least, of amaretto.  The almond aspect seems to have faded but it’s still a warm fragrance with vanilla notes and I would definitely use it again.
  2. Dove. This smells exactly how I remember Dove smelling!  A strong, fresh soapy smell which will please any Dove lover.
  3. FBomb. This still reminds me of the designer fragrance on which it’s based.  It’s not identical (which would be pretty impossible anyway) but similar enough to be recognisable I think. I’m looking forward to using my tester in the shower! Interestingly this was my husband’s favourite (in blind testing)
  4. Lavender. Oddly this no longer smells of lavender at all to me. It’s a floraly fragrance, less powdery than it was out of the bottle, but definitely not lavender. I asked a couple of other people what they thought it smelled like, and nobody got lavender.
  5. Opulence.  I’m not familiar with the perfume on which this is based, but I did like this one. It’s quite a complex fruity/floral fragrance with notes of something more spicy too.
  6. Sea Breeze and Mint.  This is a more masculine fragrance, with definite sea-side / ozone-y overtones. I don’t get much mint, but I’m not familiar with the original shower gel so perhaps it’s exactly how it should be. To me it smells a bit synthetic – not one of my favourites.
  7. Warm Mulberry.  I was surprised to discover that this is probably my favourite of the lot.  It’s not one I would have necessarily chosen from the description (fruits with vanilla) but it’s delicious. It is fruity, but it has a warmth and a depth to it which is hard to describe.  I used a fairly dark colour for this one, so didn’t notice any discolouration, but it might discolour in a white/light coloured bar.
  8. Wild Berries.  Last, but definitely not least, comes Wild Berries. This was my husband’s second favourite after FBomb, and I really like it too. It’s a juicy, fruity uncomplicated fragrance, and would make a really nice smelling bar of soap.

Out of the eight there are at least four that I would definitely consider buying when I need a new fragrance for my range, and another two that I like but probably wouldn’t get round to purchasing.  There were only two that I wasn’t particularly keen on, which I think is a pretty good percentage given that everyone’s tastes are different and it was the luck of the draw what I received.

I’d like to say thank you to Blossom Oils for giving me the opportunity to sample some of their fragrances. I would definitely recommend them to anyone looking to try some new and different fragrance oils. Their website is easy to navigate, and provides you with all of the technical data required (MSDS, IFRA certs and allergen declarations) if you sell your products. Oh, and they’re suitable for candles / wax melts too!

Check out the Blossom Oils website and find them on Facebook and Instagram too

The Week in Soap: 9th Sept ’18 – Eight Weeks!

Eight weeks to the day since my last post. EIGHT WEEKS!!  I totally underestimated how difficult the summer holidays would be without any formal childcare in place, and it’s been a bit of a struggle to be honest.  I had prepared to a certain extent. I’d hammered the soapmaking in the couple of months before so I had plenty of stock and didn’t have to worry about running out of product (I can’t say the same for the bathbombs – I’ve been skating on thin ice as far as they’re concerned, but more on that in a mo).  BUT whilst my working hours were drastically reduced for six weeks, the business demands kept growing (woop!!)  and while my ever supportive husband took as much time off as he could to help with the kids,  there was precious little ‘family’ time and we were very much tag-teaming most of the summer.

I did manage a couple of sessions of soapmaking (more as therapy than out of necessity if I’m honest lol) but almost every ‘making’ opportunity I had was taken up with bathbomb making.  I took my eye off the ball in the run up to the summer break there, and was totally unprepared for how popular these were going to be.  The making, wrapping and labelling of mounds of bombs just to keep up with orders had to take priority and THAT needs to be better organised next year!

My last soapmaking session

My last soapmaking session

Bathbombs

Bathbombs

Needless to say, I now have a list of lessons learnt from this summer, not least of which is to actually put aside, diarise, and actually HAVE holiday time with my family next summer. Don’t misunderstand me, the kids had a whale of a time this summer, didn’t miss out on anything and always had one parent or the other with them. But next year, whether we go away or not, there will be at least a week, if not two, during which nobody works, and we spend the time together, having fun.

I’ve started supplying another four (I think it’s four, it’s at least four anyway) stockists over the summer – in Criccieth, Bala, Dolgellau and another on Anglesey, which I’m thrilled about. They’re all lovely shops, and I want to tell you more about them, so I’m going to write an updated stockists post very soon.

Bathbombs on display

Bathbombs on display

The facial bars were launched last month, and wow, what a response. The first batch was sold out within twenty four hours, and the feedback I’ve been getting is just incredible.  People are enthusing about them left right and centre, so again, I’ll be writing a separate post about them in the next week or two.

Facial Bars

Facial Bars

The mini guest soaps are also seem to be gaining traction, and I’m getting more and more enquiries.  I’ve supplied two new customers in the last couple of weeks, and have a couple more in the pipeline.

Guest Bars

Guest Bars

I also have a post about breast milk soap in the pipeline. Yep, you read that right, breast milk soap 😀 It’s absolutely a thing you guys…

Oh, oh, oh I almost forgot – I have a new soap cutter, a flippin’ multi-wire soap cutter!! I’ve wanted one for a long time, but wasn’t thinking of shelling out for one until the beginning of next year (after I make my millions in the run-up to Christmas lol).  But my hand was forced somewhat when I heard my preferred vendor would no longer be making and stocking them, and only had four left. I moved fast, and got one. Phew…  There’ll be another post on it’s way about THAT, too (I’ve not yet got round to photographing yet, so can’t even share that much yet!)

On a personal note (as if this isn’t all kinda personal eh? :-D) I took part in the village craft, horticulture and produce show this year again, and did just a little better than last year – I got a trophy! I don’t think I’ve ever won a trophy in my life before (well, maybe at school? If I did I’ve forgotten, but then I do have a terrible memory)  My chocolate cake not only won best in its class, but best entry overall in the cookery/preserves section – woop!!  I have to admit, it was rather tasty lol….

Village Show Haul

Village Show Haul

Finally, a quick heads up about my next post – a review of some fragrance oils I was sent to try by a new (to me) supplier here in the UK.  They were sent almost a month ago now, and the soaps were made on the 16 August, so I really need to get my thoughts written down and back to the poor supplier who’s probably thinking I’ve forgotten all about them by now!

Fragrance Oil Samples

Fragrance Oil Samples

So there you go, a quick tour through my crazy summer. The kids have started back at school, I’m slipping gratefully back into my regular routine, and blog posts will return to some semblance of regularity.  Thanks for reading, back soon!

 

The Week in Soap: 15th July ’18

This is going to be a quick post – I haven’t made any soap this week, but it’s been a busy week for wholesale and guest bar orders, so most of my time has been spent putting them together.

Wedesday was the exception to the regular routine, and I spent the morning at my monthly networking group, telling them all about my business.  I’ve done so many soapmaking demonstrations and talks, but I’ve never had to speak to a room of business people people about MY business. About my struggles and successes, and future development and growth.  I was a little nervous to begin with, but soon warmed up, and I even made some sales, which is  always a bonus!  I joined the group  back in January, and although time constraints have meant that I haven’t been able to attend every meet-up, I’m really beginning to really appreciate the benefits of being a member.  There was a time, not so long ago, when I would have been rather dismissive of this kind of group. And all the more so because it’s called ‘Women Working Together’.  But to be honest the idea of networking was a little daunting, and I’d heard some horror stories of pushy men practicing their sales patter on unsuspecting newbies at networking events.  So, I decided to give this group a whirl, and I’m so glad I did.  I was welcomed from the beginning, and the advice and support I get from other members, who have far more experience of growing businesses, is invaluable.

I’m really short of soapy pics to share with you this week, but here are a couple of the guest bars that I put together for one of my holiday home orders.  These particular ones were for a gorgeous cottage on the Lleyn Peninsula (well worth checking out if you ever fancy a break in this neck of the woods!)

Mini guest bars

Mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

More mini guest bars

I’ve got some new ceramic soap dishes on the way, made by my talented friend Helen of the Snowdonia Blue Slate Pottery.  These are so beautiful, and sell well as part of sets.

Ceramic Soap Dishes

Ceramic Soapishes

And here, just for you, is the very first look at how I’m proposing to package my new facial bars when I launch next month:

Facial bar packaging

Facial bar packaging

There’ll be a tag on the ties (as I have now) and a stamp on the bag with my logo – that’s the plan anyway.

Oh, and I’ve finally taken the plunge and signed up for a card reader, so that I can take card payments at fairs and markets. I don’t think that not having one has caused me to Iose an awful lot of sales in the past, but I know I have lost some.  People who say they’ll come back later when they’ve been to the cash-point, but they never do.  Perhaps they never meant to do so, but who knows?

Over on Instagram, this was my best performing post of the week – a #throwbackthursday collection of discontinued bars. I still love the all-blues one, and I’m thinking of using that colour scheme to make a nice ‘ice blue’ themed bar for next Christmas:

Discontinued Drop Swirls

Discontinued Drop Swirls

And this one was my favourite IG post of the week, purely because it combines my two passions of soapmaking and books – a selection of my favourite soaping books. How many of these do you have?  I’m open to recommendations too 😉

Soapmaking books

Soapmaking books

 

On a personal note, this week saw the first harvest from the garden – a cucumber and two (TWO lol) beans. This was taken at the beginning of the week, and there have been a further two cucumbers since. Fortunate, as my son absolutely loves them!

Cucumber & beans

Cucumber & beans

This weekend has been pretty active, with an early morning walk with my friend yesterday (Saturday) morning. The sun shone, the birds sang, and I got home in time for breakfast feeling, dare I say it, awesome!!

Beddgelert walk

Beddgelert walk

And then today (Sunday) my husband and I took the children on a walk up into the mountains, to a hidden lake called Llyn (Lake) Idwal:

Llyn Idwal

Llyn Idwal

 

Kind of an incongruous place to find a beach, but a beach it certainly is – there were even a couple of swimmers.  We had a bit of a paddle, and the kids did a load of rock climbing, before we headed back down and home just in time for dinner. My kind of day 😉

Thanks for reading!

The Week in Soap: 8th July ’18

I’ve realised this evening that I need to start some kind of daily diary. This blog is supposed to serve as a record of the development of my business, but as I sat down this evening to write, I wasn’t entirely sure what it is I’ve been doing all week 😀  I think it’s the heat, going to my head.  It’s been another scorcher, with temperatures around 28-29 degrees every day, and I’m loving it…  I have fingers, toes and everything else crossed that it hold up after the schools break up for summer (less than two weeks away now – yey/eek!!) but I’ll confess to being a little pessimistic about the chances…

Back to last week then, and on Monday I took the day off and climbed a mountain.  The perfect start to week, despite the oppressive heat.  I went with three girlfriends, and we took our time, putting the world to rights as we walked.  This is the view back down towards our village from the top:

Beddgelert from the summit of Hebog

Beddgelert from the summit of Hebog

We got back in time for the school run and then we all headed down to the river for a cooling dip.  By the time I got to bed that night I’d clocked up over 28,000 steps on my Fitbit.  That’ll do me 🙂

I was back to work on Tuesday, wrapping and labelling stock to replenish what I’d sold at the fair the previous Saturday.  I spent a bit of time reorganising my office, and came across these bars that I hadn’t put up for sale because of the partial gel:

Botanica with partial gel

Botanica with partial gel

It’s great soap (of course!) and has been curing for months so it’s wonderfully hard, but it’s just not perfect, so I wasn’t happy selling it.  Anyway, there’s only so much ‘reject’ soap that we can get through at home, so I decided to offer it for half price on my Facebook page.  I had absolutely no idea it would prove so popular. I went off to a dentist appointment and forgot about soap for a while, and when I came out my notifications were going crazy and they were all sold no time.  Why on earth has it taken me so long to do that?

On Wednesday I sent off my application for the largest Christmas fair around here, the Portmeirion Winter Fair. It’s held on the first weekend of December, and I had a great (and profitable!) time there last year, so fingers crossed I can return this year.

Thursday was soapmaking day – woop!  I made 4 loaves (60 bars) of my most time-consuming bar, the seven colour Tutti Frutti, scented with a jelly beans fragrance oil.  I also made a batch of my luxury Facial Bar, in my tall ‘n’ skinny mould from The Moulds Shop.  Nope, I’m not on commission, I just love their moulds :-D.

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Tutti Frutti in the mould

Freshly poured facial soap in the mould

Freshly poured facial soap in the mould

(Yes, that’s a permanent kink in the silicone liner 😦 Entirely my fault, I stored it badly)

Generally I don’t gel my soaps.  It’s too difficult to cover my textured tops to insulate them, so I don’t normally bother.  Last time I made the facial bars I got a partial gel so this time, when I saw that the batter in the mould was starting to gel, I popped it outside into the (hot!) sunshine and let it do its thing. Because I don’t often get to see the gelling process, I excitedly took a few snaps along the way:

Gelling...

Gelling…

More gelling...

More gelling…

(nearly) fully gelled...

(nearly) fully gelled…

At this point I had to go over to the office and was worried that the batch might overheat if I left it in the sun unattended, so I brought it indoors again. I’m sure it would have been fine, and I kind of wish I’d left it out to finish off, but never mind…

On Friday morning I unmoulded and cut the facial bars:

Facial Bars, freshly cut

Facial Bars, freshly cut

I am ridiculously, utterly excited about this facial bar. I’ve been using it myself for months, to the exclusion of anything else, and I absolutely LOVE it.  I don’t want or need anything else.  It’s been tested by many others, and the feedback has been amazing, so this batch is the first that I’ll be offering for sale, probably in mid to late August.  It’s got some wonderful ingredients, including evening primrose, sweet almond, jojoba and argan oils, and I’ll be writing a post about it closer to the launch date.

I took Friday afternoon off (yes, more time off lol) and caught up with an old friend, so I was back into the office on Saturday, just briefly, to cut the Tutti Frutti soaps:

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

Freshly cut Tutti Frutti

The rest of Saturday (or what felt like an awful lot of it anyway) was spent painting our hallway.  Not exciting, but very satisfying. Oh, and avoiding the flippin’ football. Apparently England are doing ok?  Bah – give me the Tour de France any day 😉

Thanks for reading, have a great week, and I’ll be back soon!

 

 

The Week in Soap: 1st July ’18

July.  JULY guys!!  How the hell did that happen?  Officially half way through the year, closer to next Christmas than last… Uh oh…  Mind you, it couldn’t possibly feel LESS Christmassy here in north Wales; our heat wave continues, very unusual weather for us, and there’s a lot of huffing and puffing and complaints that it’s too hot.  Well not for me it ain’t.  I’ve been waiting YEARS for this kind of weather, seriously, years. Since the last proper heatwave in 1976 in actual fact (I’m not even kidding).  Hands up who thinks it’ll last juuust up until the schools break up for the summer holidays?

We’re lucky enough to have a river run through our village, one that’s swimmable in, and that’s where we’ve been after school every day this past week.  I don’t often tend to work past 3pm anyway, as that’s when the kids finish school, but I will occasionally go back to the office after my husband finishes work at 4pm if I have a lot on.  There was no chance of that happening this week.  Swimmies on, down the river, and a cooling dip was in order every single day – bliss.  These are the kind of childhood memories that we dreamt of giving our kids when we left the bright city lights to move back home to the countryside:

River Fun in the Sun

River Fun in the Sun

It’s been another fairly quiet week on the business front.  On Monday I sent out a few orders that had come in over the weekend, and the rest of that day and Tuesday was spent in the office, wrapping and labelling.

On Wednesday I got to make soap again – happy days!  60 bars of Welsh Rose and 60 bars of Scrubby Peppermint:

120 Bars of Soap in the Mould

120 Bars of Soap in the Mould

 

Welsh Rose & Peppermint Soaps in the Mould

Welsh Rose & Peppermint Soaps in the Mould

On Thursday I was back in the office, making sure everything was ready for Saturday’s Craft Fair in Porthmadog.  I cut the soap from the day before – I usually wait 48 hours before unmoulding and cutting, but for some reason I thought Thursday was Friday (and I also forgot to steam the tops, so they’re a bit more ashy than usual) This is a quick ‘first look’ snap of both varieties.

Scrubby Peppermint & Welsh rose, just cut

Scrubby Peppermint & Welsh rose, just cut

Friday was a short day as I had an appointment at the hairdressers. I did take a few photographs though. I still have this crazy idea that I’ll have a live website sometime soon, so I’m still playing with photography ideas.  This one is Sugar Drops in its packaging:

Sugar Drops, Packaged

Sugar Drops, Packaged

Saturday was my first Craft Fair since the end of April:

Soaps for Sale

Soaps for Sale

Traeth Craig Du on Display

Traeth Craig Du on Display

Bathbombs

Bathbombs7

It was a sweltering hot day, and I wasn’t expecting much, but I ended up having a pretty good day.  This was mostly thanks to returning customers which was really gratifying.  I was so pleased that Saturday was relatively successful, it raised my spirits somewhat as in all honesty, I’ve been feeling a little downhearted this last 7-10 days.  I know there are ups and downs in every business, and while I’ve had an awful lot of ups this year, the downs still have an effect.  I’ve contacted a few potential retailers recently with a view to them stocking my products.  Of the four most recent, three haven’t even acknowledged my communication, and the one who did, and to whom I sent samples (which were received and described as ‘lovely’) has since cut contact with no explanation.  I like to think I’m fairly thick skinned, and I would have no problem whatsoever with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ kind of response, but this made me question my quality of my products (which is patently nonsense given the number of returning customers and glowing testimonials I have).  Ah well, onwards and upwards as they say.

Sunday was another very satisfying, if exhausting, day, continuing the saga of taming our garden.  It was mostly heavy work – digging, landscaping etc – with nothing spectacular to show at the end, but we GOT STUFF DONE, which always feels good.  I do have one single raised bed that I’m particularly happy with though:

FULL raised bed!

FULL raised bed!

In there I have loads of broadbeans, some tomato plants, two courgette plants, a cucumber plant, runner beans, sweetpeas and sunflowers.  Not bad for a small plot eh?!

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back again soon. Have a great week everyone!

The Week in Soap: 24th June ’18

Last night I had the niggling feeling that I should be doing something.  I wouldn’t come to me though, so we spent the evening binge watching Better Call Saul (have you seen it yet?  I LOVED Breaking Bad, but didn’t think much to the idea of a spin off so avoided it despite Netflix’s best attempts at drawing me in. Given that it has the same writers, producers and directors I really should have known better, but there we go – Netflix 1, Me 0  Mind you, it has tried to foist some real doozies on me recently – the new Lost in Space remake for one – arrghhh!  Anyhow, within three seconds of waking up this morning I remembered just what it was I should have been doing last night – writing this…  Guess I’m not quite as firmly back in the saddle as I thought I might be ;-D  Now, clearly I realise that  nobody is out there desperately refreshing their screen in the hope that a new post from me will pop up, I’d like to maintain some form of regularity, so I apologise!

Well then, what’s been happening in my soapy world over the last week? On Monday I sent out orders that had come in over the weekend, and Tuesday was spent wrapping and labelling. Again.  I don’t think I realised when I decided to turn my hobby into a business that, while I would get to make a lot of soap, I would also have to wrap and label a lot more soap too.  Ah well, at least I’m not sweeping chimneys!

On Wednesday I had my first big soaping session in about three weeks.  I stocked up on Serenity (patchouli, ylang ylang, lemon & sweet orange essential oils) and Bewitched (a dupe of the ‘Love Spell’ designer perfume), 120 bars in total:

8 loaves / 120 bars of handmade soap

8 loaves / 120 bars of handmade soap

Thursday was another day of non-stop wrapping and labelling, oh, and a little bit of photography.  I’m still trying to get good shots for my website, and I quite like this one of Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands)

Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands)

On Friday I cut the batches that I’d made on Wednesday.  I took a very quick snap of them just cut, so forgive their rather tatty appearance.  I also got a touch of partial gel in the Serenity, which hasn’t happened before – I’m trusting they’ll look fine once they’ve been tidied up and bevelled:

Serenity & Bewitched, freshly cut

Serenity & Bewitched, freshly cut

In the afternoon I donned my science coat (not really) and made a few more batches of emulsified sugar scrub. It’s one of the things I’ve been working on whenever I have a spare half day, and I have to say I absolutely love this stuff. I’ve whittled my recipe down to three options, and I’m hoping I can finalise the recipe soon.  I have so many things I want to launch this year, but at the very least there’ll be cold process shampoo bars and these sugar scrubs (fragranced with mandarin essential oil in this case) :

Emulsified Sugar Scrub - tester

Emulsified Sugar Scrub – tester

Emulsified Sugar Scrub - testers

Emulsified Sugar Scrub – testers

So that was it – my work week in soap.  This coming week is going to see more soap being made, including shampoo bars, and more work on the sugar scrubs. I’m hoping to be able to send off for my scrub assessments sooner rather than later (as they can take a good few weeks to get done) and in the meantime I’ll have to think about labelling.

Have a great week everyone, and if you’re in the UK, what about this weather eh?  Absolutely glorious, although it does mean watering my hanging baskets a lot more often than I’m used to!

Hanging Baskets, June 2018

Hanging Baskets, June 2018

Thanks for reading – back soon!

The Week in Soap: 17th June ’18

Did you think I would make it back again so soon? It wasn’t a given, to be honest. I truly have got out of the habit of blogging, so it came as a bit of a shock to the system this evening when I realised it was Sunday and I really should be pressing ‘publish’ on a blog post at some point… Ah well, I made it, that’s all that matters.

So I guess today’s post really should be titled ‘The Last Three Months in Soap’, but like I said in my last post, I’m not going to give myself palpitations by trying to cover everything that’s gone on since I was last posting regularly, I’m sure it will all come out over time…

Back to this week then. This almost feels like a confession, but it’s been over a fortnight since I made any soap. That’s not strictly true as I did make a small, very special batch for friend a week or so ago (more about that one in a forthcoming post) but soap for the business? Over a fortnight. Fortunately I have over 800 bars cured and ready, and another 400 at various stages of curing, so I’m not too desperate, but I’ve sent out a lot of wholesale orders recently so I want to top up the shelves this coming week (yey!!)

No, the last few weeks have been about wrapping, labelling, and sending out order. Not just soap either. The bathbombs are starting to take off in a big way, and they’re being stocked by quite a few of my soap retailers now, and I’m getting a lot of repeat business. That’s all well and good (great even), but keeping up with demand is becoming an issue. Some of the time I would previously have spent making soap is now being spent making bathbombs, to the extent that I even spent quite a few hours making them today (On Fathers’ Day. Ooops. Well, it did mean that my better half got to spend a lot of the day with the kids – that’s what it’s all about right?? And we did go out for breakfast, en famille, to mark the occasion, so…) I digress, again… Right – bathbombs:

Bathbombs Galore

Bathbombs Galore

I have a few new wholesale customers since I last updated the blog, but I’m going to save them for future posts and give them the spotlight they deserve. I’ve also sent out my first large order for wedding favours – I’ll be writing a post about that separately too.

On a more personal note, my ankle still isn’t right from when I sprained it three months ago, just before my last update post actually. It didn’t stop me from going to my kickboxing grading last week though – I am now officially a purple belt kickboxer. Hard to believe that I’ll now be working towards a belt with some brown on it!!

Kickboxing Purple Belt

Kickboxing Purple Belt

Oh, and having just quickly skimmed over that last post, I saw that there was a bit of a teaser at the end about an Instagram giveaway that I’d won?  I suppose three months is long enough to keep you in suspense (lol!!) so here’s what I got – a handmade fused glass wave by Pam Peters Design – isn’t it absolutely gorgeous?

Fused Glass Wave

Fused Glass Wave

I’m going to leave it there for this post. It feels a little disjointed and not particularly informative, but it’s a post – woop!  I’ll be back into the swing of things again very soon, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

A Kick up the Bum

June? June?? JUNE??  Erm… How did that happen exactly?  It’s almost two and a half months since I last posted, and if I’m honest, I do know how it happened.  There’s been so much going on that I should have written about, but didn’t get round to, and those things just kept building up until I felt I could never get caught up.  It’s been a bit of a Catch 22, loads to write about, no time to write, more to write about, even less time to write about it, et cetera, et cetera blah blah blah…

But on Saturday, I got a bit of a kick up the bum.  I received notification that this blog had been placed in the top 5 (Ok, at No. 5 ;-D) Soapmaking Blogs in the UK. You can see the post here.  The criteria were:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

And it was that third bullet point that finally got me REALLY wanting to write again.  Quality of posts?  Well thank you, I’d better crack on.  Consistency of posts? Oh, um, yeah, sorry, I seriously DO need to crack on.

So please accept my apologies. There has been a lot going on, and while I’m not promising to give a blow by blow account of the last few months, I am back.   I am over my post paralysis, and I will be posting waaaay more regularly from now on.

Oh, and here’s a picture of Sugar Drops, mid-cure, because you know I can’t share a totally image free blog post 😀

Sugar Drops

Sugar Drops

UK Soap Making Blogs

Happy Easter!!

Happy Easter everyone, I hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. I didn’t post last week as I didn’t get round to making ANY soap at all (gasp!), but I’ll be back to the usual routine tonight / tomorrow with a weekly update…

In the meantime I just wanted to let you know about a giveaway I’m holding over on Twitter to celebrate the launch of this new three large bomb set. Just follow me and RT the competition post to be in with a chance of winning – easy peasy!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Vicki