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.

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The Week in Soap: 15th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 16)

So, Blogtober rolls on and, to be totally honest, here at the halfway point,  I’m suffering from a bit of blogging apathy.  I’m certain it’s temporary, and I’m absolutely not giving up (are you cheering or groaning?? 😀 ) but I am glad that today is my usual weekly update day and I don’t have to come up with something new!

Despite only having a few more weeks in which to squeeze in Christmas soap making, I only managed to make two double batches this week – Clarity & Tutti Frutti:

Clarity & Tutti Frutti

Clarity & Tutti Frutti

You probably won’t remember that I made two batches of Clarity the week before too.  Unfortunately they proved, shall we say, problematic – the first one I cut had developed soda ash throughout the bar (or is it a partial gel?) which in a black bar is really ugly. How bad does this look?!

Clarity fail...

Clarity fail…

I’ve seen photos of this before, but never experienced it, and I was absolutely gutted – it’s throughout BOTH loaves.  I had read that it could be because the oils & butters weren’t completely transparent when I added the lye (ie too cold) – which is perfectly possible as I soap at room temperature, so for my second lot this week I made sure that the oil mixture was completely, utterly, thoroughly, melted… And the same thing happened again.  6kg of soap spoilt…  Gahh!!  I’ve ALWAYS made this the same way – nothing has changed. Anyway, I’ll be upping the temps for the next batch and hope that that does the trick.

I released the Christmas soaps (Candy Cane, Frosted Christmas Tree & Warm Gingerbread) for pre-orders this week – they’ll be ready by the 21st October and orders, both wholesale and retail, have started coming in…I KNOW it probably feels early to many of you but I got caught out last year – retail outlets wanted to stock Christmas items immediately after Halloween, so really, I’m only just ready…

The Christmas Line Up 2017

The Christmas Line Up 2017

The rest of my time has been spent wrapping and labelling LOADS of bars for the *crosses fingers* Christmas rush.

Oh, and I think I have redesigned my labels.  I’ve not been totally happy with mine for the longest time, and I’m quite excited about the new look, but all will be revealed in due course.

Thanks for reading – I’ll be back tomorrow, hopefully reinvigorated and ready for another fortnight of daily blogging!

Vickx

The Week in Soap: 8th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 9)

It’s been a quieter week on the soaping front.  I was grateful for that to be honest – we had family visiting for the first half of the week, and I’ve been getting into the swing of Blogtober.  Day 9 today, almost a third of the way through the month already!!

On Monday I made two double batches, both restocks, of Welsh Rose and Blodau:

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

The Welsh Rose wasn’t my best – it accelerated a little and the colours weren’t as bright as they usually are, but it’ll be fine.  The Blodau on the other hand, turned out great  – this is a closeup of it in the mould which proved to be really popular on Instagram:

Close up of Blodau in the mould

Close up of Blodau in the mould

On Tuesday I made more restocks – double batches of Clarity and Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

The new wire for my cutter arrived on Tuesday, and it would appear I ordered the wrong one again. AARRGGHHH  It was a coiled string (?) and slightly thicker than I expected it to be.  Well, we fitted it onto the cutter anyway (taking a bit of a risk but by Wednesday morning I had 12kg of soap to cut and I couldn’t risk it getting too hard) and although it IS a little too thick, it did the trick.  I did a bit of research and discovered that I probably need 20 gauge wire, so I’ve ordered some and it should be here soon.  What a flippin’ palaver!

On Wednesday evening I gave my regular weekly soapmaking presentation.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving these. It often turns into a bit of a conversation rather than a ‘talk’ and I get to indulge in waffling on about my favourite subject to a captive audience. AND then I get to sell them soap too!  I’ve only got another two or three weeks to go before they stop for the winter, but the manager has already asked me to go back next season – hurrah!

Thursday was another completely soap free day, and Friday was spent in the office, cutting soap, labelling soap, wrapping soap, photographing soap etc etc….

I took some better pictures of my Christmas specials, which I’ll be sharing with you this week, and of the mountain soap (from yesterday’s post) and this one – the Blodau from earlier this week:

Blodau - just cut

Blodau – just cut

I realised that the reason I don’t get round to sharing cut pictures as much as the ones in the mould is that I don’t usually tidy them up until they’ve been curing for a couple of weeks, so I made and effort to try to tidy up the freshly cut bar and take a picture, and it worked ok I think:

Blodau, tidied up

Blodau, tidied up

Towards Friday evening I started to develop a sore throat which worsened as the evening went on and meant I got very little sleep on Friday night. Saturday was spent feeling ill, lethargic, weak and sorry for myself generally, and Sunday was mostly spent in bed, trying desperately to kick whatever it was that was making me feel so rubbish…

I’ll be back tomorrow, come what may, hopefully with a clearer head and body that’s more willing to co-operate!!

Vickx

 

The Week in Soap: 1st Oct ’17 (Blogtober 2)

This last week has been incredibly tiring, if I’m honest. I’ve had busy days and evenings, and I’ve really seen the effect on my energy levels.  I’m hoping that adding Blogtober into the mix for the next month isn’t the crazy idea that I’m currently thinking it might be…

Monday has been become my regular soaping day (as I need to have a loaf ready to cut on Wednesday evenings for my Soapmaking presentation) and last Monday was no exception.  I made three double batches of Bewitched, Lemon Verbena Confetti & Christmas tree:

 

Bewitched, Lemon Verbena & Frosted Christmas Tree

Bewitched, Lemon Verbena & Frosted Christmas Tree

And a close up of the Bewitched, because I can’t resist those swirls…

Bewitched in the Mould

Bewitched in the Mould

On Tuesday I was out and about delivering stock to local shops and doing a bank run, then spent the rest of the day wrapping and labelling bars.  I’ve recently bought some shrink wrap bags to try, as I’m still not happy with my packaging, so I had a bit of a play with them too.  During the evening I was out at a meeting of the local Village Hall Committee meeting (of which I’m the Secretary)

Wednesday saw me at the day job in a local Pre-School, and in the evening I was out giving my weekly soapmaking presentation at a local hotel, and then on Thursday I was back at the day job again, and in the evening I had another meeting, this time for the Annual General Meeting of the Pre-School committee (of which I’m Treasurer)

Friday was again spent wrapping and labelling soaps and bathbombs, as I had the monthly Porthmadog Craft Fair the following day, and I’d realised that I didn’t have nearly enough stock ready to take. I also needed to cut all the soap which I made on Monday (which I really should have cut on Wednesday!) but I got halfway through and the wire snapped on my cutter.  Arrgghhh… Never mind, I was well prepared and had some replacement E strings ready for precisely this eventuality.  Except I’d bought E 1st strings, instead of E 6th strings. Who knew that there are two DIFFERENT E strings on a guitar?  Double arrgghhh… .  I swiftly ordered some of the correct ones, but they won’t be delivered until next week, and I have soap to cut, so I asked Dean to fit one of the thin ones with the idea of giving it a try the next day when I could get back to the office.

I did manage to get the Lemon Verbena Confetti cut before the wire snapped:

Lemon Verbena Confetti

Lemon Verbena Confetti

THEN I remembered that I needed to print some new name/price cards for the fair, so Friday evening was spent wrestling with my printer.  I have an intense love / hate relationship with my super-duper wireless printer.  When it works, I absolutely flippin’ love it, but I’m essentially a hardware technophobe and when it doesn’t work, I’m screwed.  On Friday night it didn’t work, I was tired and frustrated and about to have a meltdown when my other half stepped in and sorted it out. Meltdown averted….

Saturday was the craft fair.  A fairly early start which didn’t help my tired state, and not a particularly busy day, but hey ho, you win some you lose some… I don’t think the weather helped:

My view from inside the Craft Fair

My view from inside the Craft Fair – look at that rain!!

While I was there I took some photographs of all the other crafters’ stalls – there’ll be a post coming up about this local monthly event as part of Blogtober but for now here’s a little peek at my stall:

Cascading Bath Bombs

Cascading Bath Bombs

I got home around 3pm, and spent the rest of the day preparing for a visit from Dean’s parents who were coming the following morning and staying a few days.

Those six days were the busiest I’ve been in a long time, and I can’t even blame the business!  Sunday, by comparison, was a joy.  A lovely family day – breakfast out with the in-laws, a bit of biscuit making (Viennese fingers – recipe to follow) a relaxed afternoon in front of the fire, rounded off with a roast chicken dinner. Even the pounding rain couldn’t put a damper on it. Bliss.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a roundup of September’s goals…

Vickx

 

The Week in Soap: 17th Sept ’17

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

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

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

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

Frosted Christmas Tree

Frosted Christmas Tree

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

Warm Gingerbread

Warm Gingerbread

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

Candy Cane Interrupted

Candy Cane Interrupted

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

Bath bombs

Lots, and lots, of bath bombs

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

Soap shavings

Soap shavings

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

Green Belt!

Green Belt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

Tutti Frutti Pre & Post Top Swirl

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

Tutti Frutti just cut

Tutti Frutti just cut

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

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

Warm Gingerbread Test Batch

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

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

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

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

A soapy disaster

A soapy disaster

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

Thanks for reading, back very soon!

 

 

 

I seem to have lost a month…

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

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

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

Candy Cane, freshly cut

Candy Cane, freshly cut

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

Star Embeds

Star Embeds

And Dinosoaps are back!

Dinosoaps

Dinosoaps

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

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

Village Show Successes

Village Show fun!

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

Viennese Fingers

Viennese Fingers

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

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