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

 

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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

 

The Wall (Blogtober 29)

After a really busy week, I’ve hit the blogging wall. I’ve utterly lost my blogging mojo today and if I’m thankful for anything it’s that there are only two more days of this to go… I had thought about writing a post about time management today, and perhaps if I wasn’t sitting down at 9.30pm to start thinking about it, I might just have done so – guess my time management was a bit off today 🙂

Anyway, yesterday was Porthmadog Craft Fair (about which a post STILL hasn’t been written) but today was a much needed family day. We took the kids out on a Halloween themed train ride followed by a rare trip to McDonalds.  Not one of my favourite places, and we’ve managed to avoid it for years, but somehow the younger members of the family have discovered it and we occasionally give in :-/  I took no photos until, on the way home, we passed by the classic view of Snowdon that I’d been trying (and failing) to recreate in soap:

Snowdon

Snowdon

See – for the highest mountain in England & Wales it doesn’t look particularly impressive or majestic does it? No wonder I couldn’t make it look good in soap. Perhaps I need to choose a different perspective?  To drive around it and find the most iconic aspect and try to recreate that in soap? Or perhaps I’ll stick to my plan of simply calling it ‘Snowdonia’ instead.

I sense I’m straying into the waffle zone, so I’m going to stop right here, get a good night’s sleep and I’ll be back tomorrow with my weekly round up and a better attitude.  Thanks for reading!

Vicki

Throwback Thursday (Blogtober 26)

As the Blogtober juggernaut trundles on, I thought it would be interesting (and easy!) to make the most of the fact that it’s Thursday and do a quick #throwbackthursday post. I’ve kept photos of every single batch I’ve ever made so I dug out the earliest incarnations of some of the varieties that are still in the current range to compare them to today’s version…

Original Bewitched

First Bewitched

Current Bewitched

Bewitched

Original Blodau (Flowers)

First Blodau (Flowers)

Current Blodau (Flowers)

Blodau, tidied up

Original Clarity

First Clarity

Second Clarity

Second Clarity

Current Clarity

Clarity (lemongrass & clary sage)

First Delicious

First Delicious

Current Delicious

Delicious

Original Luscious Lavender

First Luscious Lavender

Current Luscious Lavender

Original OMH

First Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Current OMH

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Original Serenity

First Serenity

Current Serenity

Serenity (Ylang ylang, Patchouli, Lemon & Orange

Phew! It’s becoming clear that I can’t keep this ‘blogging every day’ business up for much longer – I’ve gone from writing posts a few  days before (organised huh?) to posting them less than an hour before deadline…

Just 5 more days to go, I can do this 😀

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

 

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.

Reader Questions #1 (Blogtober 10)

Back in mid-September I put out an appeal to you lovely people for questions to help me with topic ideas for Blogtober and I wasn’t disappointed.  Rather than try to answer them all in one post, there will probably be three posts in total during Blogtober – this here being the first.

Question 1 came from Claire of Saponista, who asked ‘What is your favourite soapmaking oil, and why?’  Without a doubt, my favourite soapmaking oil isn’t actually an oil, it’s a butter – cocoa butter, and I can’t imagine making soap without it (that’s a bit of an exaggeration of course – I made castile recently, and there ain’t no cocoa in that, but as a general rule each batch I make contains 10% cocoa butter) Cocoa butter adds skin loving properties to soap, and because I choose not to use palm oil, it also helps a lot with making a nice hard bar.

Question 2 comes from Jo who asked what I do about soaps and bath bombs that aren’t perfect.  I’ll be honest, I have my own idea of what a ‘perfect’ drop swirl is, and it’s very rare that I achieve what I see as perfection.  Consequently, practically none of my soaps are perfect in my eyes and I’m always striving to make them better. Providing a soap is a good hard bar, even if the design isn’t my best, it’s made available for sale. (Having said that, I’ve just cut one this week that I’m really not happy with – 3kg of soap that is more than likely going to have to go on the reject shelf – but I’m keeping the details of that one for a post later on this month)  

Bath bombs, on the other hand, don’t go out unless they’re pretty much perfect.  It took me a while to be able to get the mixture to the right consistency every time, but I think I’ve cracked it and it’s rare that I get bombs that aren’t pretty good (but the odd one that doesn’t quite make the grade will always find a place in my kids’ bath!)  Interestingly (and this was part of Jo’s question), although I live in a particularly wet part of the country, I haven’t found that the climate or weather conditions have any effect whatsoever on my bomb making abilities.  This seems to go contrary to what I’ve heard so many others say about bath bomb making, but there you go, that’s my experience.


Jo – I will write up some of my top tips for bath bomb making in a near-future post – I promise!

Question 3 kind of leads on from the last question, and came from Barb of Scrub Me Down Soap who asked how the weather affects my soaping.  This one’s easy – it doesn’t!  I live in a mountainous area, but the climate is effectively wet, cloudy, windy and mild.  We don’t experience great extremes of temperature, and the only time the weather has ever affected anything to do with my soapmaking was that time my coconut oil unexpectedly melted and made one hell of a mess in my storeroom. It’s ALWAYS solid at room temperature, but that one time – arrghhhhh we just don’t get that kind of heat here often…

Question 4 is another one from Barb – what music do I listen to when soaping?  Actually, it’s not always music.  I LOVE the radio, and I’m a big fan of BBC Radio 4. It keeps me up to date with current affairs and has the most insanely interesting programmes, on all subjects under the sun.  When I do listen to music, it’s inevitably rock music; contemporary rock,  70s rock, or any era in between, including the occasional trip down memory lane to my uni days with 1990s indie rock.

Question 5 is the last one for today, and yet again comes from Barb – where do I buy my stash?  I buy my oils and butters from a variety of companies, including LiveMoor,  Mystic Moments, and the local Cash&Carry for olive oil. (Anyone else notice how expensive olive oil is at the moment?!!)  I buy my soap colours (micas) from U-Makeitup , and my bath bomb colourants from Soaposh.   As for fragrances, I buy most of my fragrance oils from the wonderful Gracefruit (who. by the way, have the BEST customer service) and essential oils, well I’m currently looking for a new supplier, so if you have any recommendations…

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

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