The Week in Soap: 5th November, 2017

Sometimes a week goes completely differently to expectation.  This last week the kids have been home from school for the half-term break (already! Yikes…) and I honestly thought it was going to be a toughie.  I’m right in the middle of the pre-Christmas rush and I knew Dean was crazy busy with his work and not able to take any time off, so was resigned to night time working.  I was able to arrange one reciprocal playdate with a friend who has similar aged children, so i had a houseful of children on Tuesday, and Thursday was to be my one and only ‘work’ day.

Still, on Monday and Tuesday I managed to escape over to the office at 4pm when Dean finished work to pack up a few orders. When I got back, I found out that he’d managed to take the following day off as a holiday so that I could work. He’s a good ‘un.

So of course on Wednesday I took full advantage of an unexpected work day and made a load of bathbombs, as well as making a serious dent in the orders that needed to be packed and dispatched.

Thursday was my kind of day. Once the kids had been safely delivered to their friends’ house,  I made over 16kg of soap – the first time I’ve ever used all my moulds at once:

Four double batches of wet soap

Four double batches of wet soap

I think I may need more moulds!  Clockwise from top left these are Serenity (Patch, Ylang Ylang, Lemon & Sweet Orange EOs), Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime EOs). Blodau (Lavender & Ylang Ylang EOs) and Luscious Lavender.

Wet soap

Wet soap

Later on Thursday Dean said he’d managed to get the Friday off too – result!  I managed to get another few batches of bath bombs made, and then I indulged in a little experimentation  I made another test batch of lip balm – this time in packaged in a tin:

Lip balm test

Lip balm test

This one was made with beeswax, cocoa butter and rice bran oil, and turned out harder than the last test – this one would probably have been better in a tube rather than a tin. I didn’t flavour or fragrance, and I think I prefer it that way…

I also tried making whipped body butter – two separate batches, both made with unrefined shea butter and coconut oil, with a touch of evening primrose oil.  I added lavender and rosemary essential oils to the first batch, and ylang ylang and benzoin essential oils PLUS 1tblsp of arrowroot powder to the second batch.

Melting oil  & butter

Melting oil & butter

Whipping the oils and butters

Whipping the oils and butters

Amazing how much final product came from a relatively small amount of oils – these are far from dainty containers (I popped a pound coin in the photo to give some idea of scale):

Whipped Body Butter

Whipped Body Butter

I used unrefined shea butter, and I’m definitely not a fan of the fragrance – I’ll use refined next time, which is what I usually use in my soap.  I also didn’t add enough fragrance, although it might be that the shea was overpowering the essential oils.

On first trying it I found the body butter to have quite a greasy texture.  Being used to commercial body butters, this version does feel oily on the skin, but having used it for a few days now I find I’m liking it more and more – it sinks into my skin quite nicely.  The arrowroot is supposed to reduce the greasiness of the body butter but I can’t discern much difference between the one with, and the one without.

On Saturday I took over family duties while Dean did some work on the house – the children and I visited the library and went swimming, then had fish and chips at the beach.

On Sunday Dean and the children went to visit friends for the afternoon while I went to the office and unmoulded, then cut, the soap from Thursday’s soaping session. I’m conscious that I often share photos of freshly poured soap and then forget to share the cut pictures, so I made a special effort to get a snap of the freshly cut soap – do bear in mind that they’re still soft here and haven’t been tidied up yet. Clockwise from top left – Luscious Lavender, Blodau, Botanica & Serenity:

Freshly cut soap

Freshly cut soap

Finally, some exciting news on the home front.  Since moving into this house over three years ago now we’ve lived with a really grotty bathroom while we upgraded other parts of the house and it’s meant that I haven’t been able to share the kind of in-use product photos I would have liked.  This week work begins on our new bathroom – woop!  I can’t wait to share pictures, just as soon as it’s done.

Thanks for reading, back soon!

Vicki

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Blodau in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Botanica in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Serenity in the mould

Advertisements

Made it! (Blogtober 31)

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

I hope you’ve all had a spooktastic evening (or managed to avoid one, whichever you prefer!)  But there’s another reason to celebrate tonight – Happy End of Blogtober!

Having completed Blogtober in 2016 without too much trauma, I was a little blasé about doing it this year.  What I failed to take into account is how much busier I am this year. I have more customers, more retail outlets, and I needed to make (and wrap & label) far more Christmas specials too.  I won’t lie, it’s been a squeeze some days to get my posts written and posted by the midnight deadline.

I’ve been trying to work out exactly WHY I wanted to do it again this year. I know blogging is good for SEO, but given that I don’t have a live website yet, that’s kind of immaterial. I like writing, and blogging every day has given me an excuse to do that, and of course, I LOVE a challenge. I like goals, lists and challenges. Hmmm… 

Have there been any benefits?  I’ve picked up 10 new followers during October, which is a few more than the monthly average.  I’ve had 2.5k views during this month (the next highest monthly views was LAST October, at 1.7k, and I’ve also seen my highest number of views in a single day this month, on the 12th October when I posted my top tips for giving a soapmaking demo.

There were some downsides though.  I didn’t complete a single other of my October goals NOT ONE! I didn’t do ANY work on my website. I didn’t make a lotion or a cream and I ran a grand total of 3.5km – a far cry from the 50km I wanted to complete.  I struggled sometimes with finding something I wanted to write about. I had plenty of ideas, but it wasn’t always the right time to tackle that subject, or I didn’t feel I had the time to do a particular subject justice. That was another concern to be honest, lack of time led to some superficial posts that I probably wouldn’t have been posted had I not had the pressure of daily deadlines.

So would I do it again? Probably, yes.  Maybe not Blogtober though. This October has been my busiest month EVER in the business. I’m rushed off my feet, and I think the challenge of daily blogging for a month is better suited to sometime during the first half of the month –  Bloguary anyone?? 😀

So that’s me done for Blogtober 2017.  If you stuck with me thus far, thank you SO much! I can’t close before giving a shout-out to my partner in crime Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps, one of only two others who started the challenge with me, and the only other one who completed it.  A special mention too has to go to Hayley of The Pamper Kingdom who got to day 17 before family had to take priority.  If you enjoy soaping blogs and haven’t yet checked out theirs, please do!

Thanks for reading, back… *ahem*… sometime soon 😀

Vicki

 

The Week in Soap: 29th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 30)

This week is half term here in in Wales, a week later than the rest of the United Kingdom it seems.  This means, of course, that there’s no school all week, and I’m left wondering how I’m going to fit in everything I have to do while entertaining two energetic children.  It also means that this is going to be a whistle-stop post as every minute counts this week!

On Monday I made two double batches of Candy Cane and Frosted Christmas Tree.  I’ve been caught by surprise somewhat at how well (and quickly) these soaps are selling, and seeing as I still have time, I made some more…

More Candy Cane

More Candy Cane

More Christmas Tree

More Christmas Tree

Tuesday was a write-off, work-wise, thanks to that power cut.

Wednesday was my last-but-one day at the day job, followed by kickboxing and then my last Wednesday night soapmaking demo of the season. I have been asked back for next year (yey!) but that won’t be until the hotel opens to guests again at the end of March.

Thursday was bittersweet.  My last day at the pre-school was lovely – we took the children for pizza and ice-cream, and then to the park and everyone had a wonderful time.  It was sad to think that I won’t be working closely with them again BUT I can’t wait to be able to focus properly on this business from now on (well, after this week anyway!!)  As soon as Dean finished work at 4pm I headed over to the office to put together orders for the following day’s deliveries and ended up feeling elated and just a little bit in awe at how quickly the Christmas soaps are heading out the door!

Orders in Progress

Orders in Progress

Friday morning was spent making soap deliveries, including to a brand new stockist – always exciting! The sky was clear and it was  a joy to drive around beautiful Snowdonia in the sunshine, delivering soap and chatting to the stockists. I had a load of wrapping and labelling to do in the afternoon, in preparation for the Porthmadog Craft Fair the following day but by 7pm I’d had enough and took the evening off.

Up and out early the next day for the end of month craft fair in Porthmadog.  Honestly, I  think it was the quietest day I’ve ever had there in all the years I’ve attended.  I suppose it’s that lull between the end of the summer season and the start of the Christmas shopping, but given that I’m busier than ever with wholesale and online orders I really didn’t mind. While I was there I managed to put together a long list of places I want to approach in the new year with a view to becoming stockists, and also worked on plans for new projects, so it wasn’t wasted time.

I spent most of Sunday with Dean and the children on a Halloween themed day out. The plan was to have a completely work-free day but during the drive home I started getting anxious about my low stocks of bathbombs.  Arrghhh!  I couldn’t help myself, I made 5 different varieties – 75 in total. Ho hum… the life of a business owner 😀

Back tomorrow for the last Blogtober post of 2017 – woo hoo!!

Vicki

 

A Spanner in the Works (Blogtober 25)

I had plans for today. Big plans. Important plans.

Today was the day for finishing off the wrapping and labelling of the first batches of Christmas soaps which had emerged, at the weekend, from their curing confinement

Today was also the day for delivering/dispatching said soaps to all the lovely people, both wholesale and retail clients, who had pre-ordered them.

I got up, and started making breakfast for the kids (pancakes, from scratch, in case you cared).  I made my husband a coffee and took it up to the bedroom. He works from home and I take him a coffee in bed every. Sodding. Morning.  Mind you, I can’t complain. I get a cup of tea in bed at the weekends. If I nag enough…

I digress. I should have known it was going to be a strange day.  Most days my kids are awake before me – they were both utterly rubbish sleepers as babies (my eldest was over 18 months old before he slept more than 2 hours at a time) and have always been early risers. Today, for the first time in our family history, I had to go in to each of their bedrooms and WAKE THEM UP!! (*Ahem* capitals are for effect – I didn’t actually shout – how mean would that be?!!)  Seriously though, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve ever had to wake one, or the other, up in the morning. Never, ever have I had to wake them both.

So, they were up a bit later than usual, and I was hurrying them along to eat their pancakes and get ready for school. At 7.45 the electricity went off. Complete power outage throughout the village. Never mind, teeth still got done, faces still got wiped, hair was still brushed and we put on layers of waterproofs to brave the howling wind & rain for the arduous 45 second walk to school (have I mentioned how close we live to the school?)

Did you see it coming? We arrived at the school door and were turned away. No school today – ‘Health and Safety’. Can’t do school without electricity. “Arrrrgggghhhhhhhhhhh!!!” (I might have said, under my breath)

So home we go. I couldn’t go to work, and I couldn’t even take the car to make deliveries as my husband, at a crucial point in his current project, needed to use the car to go hunt for the to nearest reliable wifi connection (which, it  turns out, is to be found parked up outside our nearest Tesco (8 miles away), laptop balanced on knees – who’d have thought??!!)

So I spent an hour trying valiantly to do ‘housework’ (but mostly boiling a pan of water to make cups of tea). The kids spent an hour not knowing what on earth to do with themselves until I remind them that they have some toys that don’t have screens…

Mum turned up at about 10.30am, saw the wild look in my eyes and took the kids for a couple of hours. I ran (literally, the rain was still an issue) over to the office and wrapped and labelled as much as I could in the gloom.  These are about half of the orders that were supposed to go out today:

Soapy Work in Progress

Soapy Work in Progress

It was dark, really dark, and although I had so much to do my eyes did get sore and I was glad when 12.30 came around – time to collect the kids.

The electricity finally came back on at about 5.30, just in time to illuminate our meal of  fish and chip suppers that Dean brought home, in full-on hunter-gatherer mode.  The family was fed.

I’m back at the day job tomorrow, so I have a lot of soapy catching up to do somehow but one thing’s for sure – I’ll be back with Blogtober 26 😀 #blogtobersoapers

 

 

The Week in Soap: 22nd Oct 17 (Blogtober 23)

Blimey it’s been a busy week! It started on Monday with two double batches of Luscious Lavender and Warm Gingerbread:

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Luscious Lavender in the mould

Warm Gingerbread in the mould

Warm Gingerbread in the mould

and continued on Tuesday with two double batches Welsh Rose and Clarity:

Welsh Rose in the mould

Welsh Rose in the mould

Clarity in the mould AFTER CPOP

Clarity in the mould AFTER CPOP

I was so SO pleased that the Clarity turned out ok:

Clarity, freshly cut

Clarity, freshly cut

 

The two previous batches failed (I wrote about that trauma here) and I still need to try my hand at rectifying the failed batches with the oven method. Soon, soon…

Wednesday was my regular weekly soaping presentation. I only have one more to go this season before the hotel closes for winter, but I’ve been asked to go back in the spring which I’m really happy about.  That’ll be my fourth year so I must be doing something right!

On Thursday (after the day job) I spent the late afternoon / most of the evening wrapping and labelling soap for the Beddgelert Craft Fair the following Saturday. I spent all day (and evening) on Friday doing the same.

Saturday was the fair itself and, being the organiser, I needed to be there before anyone else to set up, and was the last to leave after the clear up.  Despite the (relatively) poor turnout, which was entirely down to the rubbish weather, it really was a good day. The stallholders and customers left happy, and I breathed a sigh of relief – it’s definitely going ahead again next year 🙂

Sunday, yesterday, was a family day. I needed a breather, away from work, so the kids and I baked and generally spent the day relaxing. Well, as much as one can relax when one’s dear husband is taking apart the bathroom… Yep, the next phase of home renovation has started, the reno-rollercoaster has begun again and we should have a shiny new bathroom by Christmas. I’ll share pictures when I can.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vick.

Beddgelert Craft Fair (Blogtober 22)

This time last year I wrote a post called 10 Tips for Organising a Craft Fair which was a response to organising one in Beddgelert,  my home village, for the very first time.  For the last month or so I’ve been working hard putting together this year’s event, which was held yesterday.

Yesterday! Those of you in the UK will know that yesterday was pig of a day, weatherwise.  Storm Brian came to visit, and the weather was shocking.  Strong winds and torrential rain. Ho hum.  This resulted in two stall holders cancelling on me last minute, which was a disappointment, but we managed to spread out the other tables and I don’t think they were missed by customers.  The other issue with the awful weather was, of course, that people clearly didn’t want to leave the warmth (and safety!) of their homes.  Footfall was down from last year, and I can only put that down to the weather. Nothing we could have done about that, and so I was really grateful to those people who did brave the elements and came out to support us. I thought I’d share some pictures of the day with you here.

Kevin & Kay collect driftwood and other ‘recyclables’ from the coast locally and turn them into gorgeous items to decorate the home.  The Christmas tree with incorporated fairly lights are a special favourite of mine… Kevin & Kay aren’t on any social media at all, they can’t keep up with production as it is so have no need to advertise – what an great situation to be in!!!

Driftwood Crafts

Driftwood Crafts

The stall next to Kevin & Kay was taken by Pauline of Jewellery by Pauline.  Practically all my earrings these days have been made by Pauline, and as well as other jewellery she also makes adorable embroidered lavender bags.

Jewellery by Pauline

Jewellery by Pauline

Next up was Vanessa of Vanessa’s Papercuts.  Vanessa has an amazing talent creating art with paper – either intricately cutting it so that it’s almost lace-like, or using lots of cleverly cut layers of paper to create an image:

Vanessa's Papercuts

Vanessa’s Papercuts

The came me.  This was the very first outing for my step risers, so I haven’t necessarily worked out the best configuration for the display yet…

My table

My table

Next was my next-door-but-one neighbour Cadi.  She makes the most lovely Christmas wreaths and had a small table in order to take orders for this Christmas.  I always have a wreath of hers on our front door during the festive season.

Handmade Wreaths

Handmade Wreaths

Next up was a group of three local ladies who are INCREDIBLY talented with yarn and fabric.  I wish I’d taken some close-ups of their work, so intricate and finely done:

More Handicrafts

More Handicrafts

The next table was taken by the ladies of our village Craft Club.  They meet once a week in this hall, and had lots of knitted/crochet items for sale (along with a few jars of homemade preserves which went down a treat too).

The Craft Club's Table

The Craft Club’s Table

There was one more table, next to the one above (you can just see a corner of it in the photo) but it was a stall being run for a children’s club, and there were children manning the table.  I failed to get a photo without any of the kids in it, so I can’t share any, but they had Christmas stockings, greetings cards, purses, bunting and lots of other lovely stuff for sale.

We should also have had a wood turner and a lady who makes mosaics, but they were the two who were sadly unable to come at the last minute.  I think there was plenty to interest the lovely folk who came in to support us though.

At the other side of the hall we also had a lucky dip for the children, a tombola and a fabulous refreshments table manned by the local club for *ahem* ‘people of advanced years’.  I suppose you could call them Golden Oldies 😀  They did us proud, serving up teas and coffees and SO many homemade cakes.

All in all it was a great day, and could only have been improved by having more people come through the door, but there’s no predicting the weather around here!!

Thanks for reading, and my apologies if this post seems a little rushed – and for the quality of the photos!! Up until now I’ve managed to get posts written at least one day before, and schedule them to go live on the morning of deadline day.  By the time I got home last night after clearing up the hall I had absolutely no inclination to write, and today I’ve been busy with the kids, so it’s now 7.30pm on deadline day – eek!  No matter, as long as it’s live before midnight I’m still in the game lol 😀

Back tomorrow!

Vickx

Reader Questions #2 (Blogtober 17)

I’m back to those questions that were posed on my appeal for post ideas back in September.

Today’s four questions are courtesy of Barb of Scrub Me Down – Happy Skin. There was going to be a fifth from Lisa of Aquarian Soap (see link below), about time management, but I’m going to give that subject a post all of its own!!

Question 1 is ‘What are my favourite blogs to follow?’  Well that’s an easy one – go to my homepage and down the right hand side you’ll see a list of some of blogs that I follow (I don’t know how it chooses which ones to display – Lisa’s Aquarian Soap blog doesn’t show up but I LOVE her posts, and Sarah of Sas-Oki Soaps too. Oh, and Danica’s Seife und Anderes) I went through and did a bit of a cull just recently as I realised that many of them hadn’t been updated for the longest time.   Are there any glaring omissions there that I really should be following?  What are your favourite blogs (not necessarily soapy ones!)

Question 2 – If you could carve out half a day and make something other than soap, what would you make? A cake. Always, a cake.  I might not be the best cook in the world, but my baking usually goes down quite well.  I’m going to post another couple of recipes before the end of Blogtober I think!  I also really REALLY want to learn how to crochet, and if I had any regular free time I think I’d give that a go…

Question 3 – What’s your favourite fragrance for soap? My favourite fragrance oil of all time is a Pink Sugar dupe from Gracefruit called Pink Kisses (used in ‘Sugar Drops’), but I’m also in love with their Warm Gingerbread at the moment – it’s all ginger, cinnamon and vanilla and is mouthwateringly delicious.   I’ve recently received a little sample of a fragrance called Tabac Vanille which I think is a dupe of a Tom Ford fragrance which is really intriguing me and can’t wait to try in a test batch.  My favourite EO blend at the moment is the one I use in Botanica – lavender, lemon & lime.  I could stand and sniff a bar all day…

Sugar Drops

Sugar Drops

Warm Gingerbread Handmade Soap

Warm Gingerbread Handmade Soap

Botanica (Lavender, Lemon & Lime)

Botanica

Question 4 What was your worst batch of soap?  Hahahaha there have been loads of them over the years.  I’ve forgotten to add fragrance, or added to much.  I’ve miscalculated and made lye heavy soap, and made soap that never set up.  Luckily these days ‘bad’ batches are few and far between, but I did have that one a month or two ago – when I tried to make ‘Snowdon’ with a new FO that I hadn’t tested – rookie mistake!!  I’ve still got it carefully stored in the hope I can use it to experiment with rebatching – and report back my thoughts of course!!

A soapy disaster

A soapy disaster

Unfortunately I had another couple of disasters just this last fortnight. I mentioned it in yesterday’s post so I won’t go on about it now but Clarity, with activated charcoal has been proving problematic too:

Clarity fail...

Clarity fail…

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!! If you have any questions please comment below and I’ll do my very best to answer them.