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Blogtober Done and Dusted – Woop!

Blogtober 2021 – Day 31

Happy Halloween! Hope the weather is better with you than it’s been here today – heavy rain and gale force winds mean that any plans for Trick or Treating have been binned. We did however spend some time carving pumpkins:

We have plenty of Halloween treats in for the children and I’m planning on making some spiced pumpkin soup later on this week so it’s not been a complete washout.

So, that’s thirty one days of successive posting done, and Blogtober 2021 completed. Truth be told there were times it was a bit of a chore resulting in a teensy bit of blogging fatigue. Given that the main reason for doing Blogotober was to get back into the habit of writing posts, this is not an ideal outcome :-D. I really will make more of an effort though. I still have some post ideas – perhaps the lack of time pressure will make it a little easier in future. Ooh maybe there’s a blog post right there once I’m done…

Thanks for reading – until next time!

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A Few Days Away

Blogtober 2021 – Day 30

We’re home! On Tuesday we took advantage of school half term and travelled down to Fishguard for a short break in a self-catering cottage. It was a few days of family fun away from work, and was just what I needed to clear my head ready for the run up to Christmas.

I’m not going to bore you with a blow by blow account of all we did, but we did manage to squeeze quite a LOT into our three days. We walked the coastline, visited an aquarium, spent evenings playing scrabble, went to St David’s to see the cathedral, had some fabulous pizza, saw a seal in the wild, taught the children to play Yahtzee, played on the beach, went to Folly Farm and generally spent more uninterrupted time together than we have done for aaaaages…

Seal near the shore
Strumble Head Lighthouse

Off Strumble Head

We arrived home today with two VERY tired children and we not much better. So, the washing machine’s been loaded and tonight’s all about putting our feet up and getting over the journey – it’s always fun when the children tag team feeling sick, necessitating a stop every half hour…

Oh, and just to squeeze in at least one mention of soap – and to prove that I practice what I preach, here’s a quick snap of my wax-wrapped bar stack – one soap, one solid shampoo, one conditioner bar and my facial bar, before I packed them to take away:

Get yours here

By the way, did you notice yesterday’s definitely-not-so-deliberate mistake? Although I’d pre-scheduled all the Blogtober posts for while we were away, they kept failing so I had to manually make them live. But yesterday I forgot (waaay too busy having fun) and it went live this morning instead. Just a minor blip, but I suspect nobody’s reading these posts so it really doesn’t matter 😀

Thanks for reading the penultimate Blogtober post, back tomorrow for the last!

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The Christmas Range 2021 – Santa’s Cookies

Blogtober 2021 – Day 29

Last (but – of course – not least) in the Christmas 2021 limited edition line up is Santa’s Cookies. It smells just like Ginger Snaps – a bit of biscuitty sweetness but leaning more towards the ginger, rounded off with nutmeg, molasses and vanilla. Just don’t leave one of these out for Santa to nibble on – he won’t thank you for it 😉

There we go, four days, four Christmas specials. Which one’s your favourite?

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow with the penultimate Blogtober post – hooray!!

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The Christmas Range 2021 – North Pole

Blogtober 2021 – Day 28

The third of this year’s limited edition Christmas specials is North Pole. This one’s a bit of a departure from the norm, but the fragrance is perfect for a winter soap. It’s a fresh, cool menthol/eucalyptus blend with a touch of camphor, pine, lemon and spice. Oh so invigorating!

Thanks for reading! Back tomorrow with the fourth and final limited edition Christmas special for 2021.

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The Christmas Range 2021 – Snow Fairy

Blogtober 2021 – Day 27

The second of this year’s limited edition Christmas specials is Snow Fairy. This fragrance was the runaway favourite amongst my customers last year, so it had to come back for a second appearance this year (with a new look, of course!)

Snow Fairy is fragrance that’s difficult to describe, so I’m going to break my unwritten rule and just copy the supplier’s description. Let’s see what you make of this:

“A captivating blend of sparkling pink snowflakes laying gently on opulent velvet moonlight rose mingles with zingy black raspberry to complete on a seductive base of warm dark smooth ambers, earthy patchouli and sheer musk”

What do you think? Any the wiser? If you know what pink snowflakes smell like, please do share! All I can tell you is that it smells absolutely gorgeous, as a great many of my customers from last Christmas will testify….

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

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The Christmas Range 2021 – Noel

Blogtober 2021 – Day 26

The first of this year’s limited edition Christmas specials is Noel, and I’m sharing it first because I think it’s my favourite of the lot. Noel is fragranced with a blend of rich festive fragrances including citrus fruits, spicy clove and cinnamon, and notes of sweet vanilla, patchouli, cedarwood and amber which round off the scent. This is a gem of a fragrance, and is especially wonderful for soap because:

  1. It’s a fragrance that contains vanilla that does not discolour to brown and
  2. It’s a fragrance that contains spice elements that does not accelerate (thicken up too quickly) during the making process.

A bit of a soapmaker’s dream come true really!

Available from the 13th November

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

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Rainbows for Christmas

Blogtober 2021 – Day 25

I promised a photo of the cut bars of Enfys (Welsh for ‘Rainbow’) that I made yesterday, and here they are 🙂 Fragranced with a sweet and fruity berry-like fragrance.

Just over 90 bars of Enfys, freshly cut and still a little tatty around the edges. Please forgive their current rought and ready appearance – once they’ve dried a bit they’ll be bevelled and generally tarted up, but they’re a little too soft to be titivated at this stage.

They’re currently out of stock, but when they’re ready – around the end of November, you’ll find them here.

I had thought to tack this photo on the end of a completely different post today, but Blogtober exhaustion has hit, and I reckon as long as I get SOMETHING posted every day, that’s good enough. We’re also going away for a few days tomorrow, and so today has mostly been a day of washing and packing, rather than composing an interesting and constructive blog post 😉

Speaking of which. When I first decided, on a whim, to take part in Blogtober this year, I completely neglected to consider our little trip away. It’s just a few days in Fishguard, on the Pembrokeshire coast, but it’s a few days away from work, to enjoy time with the children, and I’m not taking my laptop. So over the next four days I’m going to introduce the four limited edition Christmas special for 2021, and I’ll be back with a ‘proper’ post on Saturday. Which, in all honestly will probably just consist of photos of our trip.

So, short and sweet, but thanks for popping by anyway. There will be a post tomorrow, and the following three days, but I’ll be back in person on Saturday.

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A Busy Weekend

Blogtober 2021 – Day 24

It may be the weekend, but I’ve still been busy making soap. I generally try to avoid working on the weekend, but it’s half-term this week and we’re going away for a few nights, so I’m getting caught up in advance 😀

Yesterday I made 180 bars of soap – 60 Cysur, 60 Fresh Linen and 60 Rose:

And today I cut all the loaves into bars:

Yesterday I also cut the loaves of Luxury Facial Bar that I made on Friday. If you’ve never considered washing your face with soap, then this might the thing to change your mind. It’s cleansing but super-gentle, and won’t leave your skin feeling tight. Just check out the reviews on the website listing here

Today I’ve made 88 bars of Enfys (the Rainbow bar) – the most I’ve ever made in one go. These are currently sold out but are a great seller at Christmas, so I was really keen to get these made before we went away. Hopefully I should be able to get them all cut tomorrow (Monday) and then I can forget about them for a few weeks. All being well I’ll share a photo of the cut bars in tomorrow’s post.

That’s all for today, thanks for reading, I’ll be back tomorrow!

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Becoming a Full Time Soapmaker

Blogtober 2021 – Day 23

Another question that came up when I asked for blog post ideas in our FaceBook group was this one:

I actually thought that I’d written about this aaaaages ago, and thought it would be a nice quick and easy to update and repost… But no. If I did write it, I can’t find it 😀

So, this is the story of how I came to be a full-time soap maker.

Sometime back in (I think!) 2009/2010 a friend came to visit and showed me a piece of soap she’d made. I was amazed. Not only did I have ABSOLUTELY no idea how soap was made, I couldn’t believe that it was possible to make it at home. This was something completely new to me and I REALLY wanted to know more.

I started scouring the internet for ‘how to’ articles, I bought loads of books, and started watching soap making videos on Youtube, until eventually I was ready to make my very first batch of soap. My first attempt was made using a kit bought online. It provided pre-measured oils, butters and lye, and with hindsight was massively overpriced for what it contained, but never mind that – I made soap!

It doesn’t look like much but I was SO proud of that soap! It was supposed to be fragranced but there wasn’t much smell to it, but it worked like soap should work, so I was happy.

After that there was no stopping me. I made lots and lots and lots of soap, in lots of different colours and fragrances, and pretty soon I had way more than we, friends or family could possibly use in one lifetime. All this experimentation took quite a while, during which time I’d had our first child and given up work to look after him. Needless to say the prospect of making a bit of extra cash by selling soap was very appealing and I hit upon the idea of starting up a little business that I could potter away at, while still being a full-time mum. But it wasn’t going to be that easy.

One thing I’d realised from my research was this: Selling soap involves a lot more than just making it and then finding a market. Every single product that is designed to be used on the skin, whether a leave-on product (like lotion) or a rinse-off product (like soap), needs to be assessed and approved by an appropriately qualified chemist and needs to be covered by a Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR).

Once the CPSR had been obtained I made sure I was properly insured and also had my soaps recorded on the European Cosmetic Product Notification Portal (CPNP)* Then I had to ensure that my labelling and ingredients list etc were compliant, and that batch numbers were recorded for all products. But eventually, I was ready to give it a go.

We were living in Manchester at the time, and I signed up for a few artisan craft fairs at the weekends, but it really wasn’t the earner that I’d hoped it might be. Sometimes I’d do well and go home buzzing, but often I’d sell a few bars and earn just enough to cover the fees that I’d paid to be there. I generally made enough to keep buying more supplies to keep making, but to be honest for a long time I wasn’t doing much more than covering my costs.

By 2014 we’d had our second child and decided to move the family back home to north Wales, where I was brought up, and it was here that the business really took off – mainly with the support of a few local businesses who agreed to stock my soaps. Over the years I managed to get my products in more and more shops, and then in February 2020 I launched the website, and thank goodness I did. Covid hit, and craft fairs and retail outlets all closed their doors.

Fast forward to today and althought the craft fairs are starting up again, I’ve decided not to participate any longer. I now have a long list of stockists and the website is doing well; doing craft fairs as well would mean stretching myself too thinly. I think anyone who runs their own business alone with know that it’s quite hard work, and I work at least 50 hours per week as it is – that’s quite enough thank you! Besides, starting the business was orginally a way for me to stay at home with the children rather than have to work outside of the home, and being at craft fairs all day at the weekend would mean missing out on a lot of family time.

*Since Brexit we in the UK no longer have access to the CPNP and instead have to submit a cosmetic product notification to the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) for every different product and variety of product

Well, that turned into a bit of a long-winded waffle, but hopefully it answers the original question. If there’s anything you’re still wondering about please just ask away in the comments below!

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

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50 Things That Make Me Happy – Revisited

Blogtober 2021 – Day 22

I originally shared this post way back in June 2017 and thought it might be interesting to post it again, highlighting anything that’s changed during the intervening four years.

Here goes:

And now for something completely different. Sometimes it does a lot of good to take a moment and count one’s blessings. I’ve realised how lucky I am that this really didn’t take me very long to put together…

  1. Making lists. Win-win!
  2. A large mug of tea.  Strong, just a drop of milk, absolutely NO sugar (urgh).  Oh, and a quiet 10 minutes to drink it!
  3. Gardening.  I don’t have much of a garden at the moment – it’s a work in progress, but I even enjoy the heavy, clearing work.
  4. Spotify.  Music while I work – yey! More often these days its Audible and audiobooks.
  5. A hot bath. With a good book – often the only time I ever get round to reading for pleasure.
  6. An empty ironing basket.  I REALLY don’t like ironing, so I don’t often have an empty basket 😀 I still dislike ironing but I’ve now got into a routine and often have an empty basket – hooray
  7. Trying new fragrance oils for soap
  8. Making soap. Obvs…
  9. A long shower.  It’s my child free, thinking time, so it inevitably goes on for a little longer than it should.
  10. Running.  I’ve got out of the habit recently – must get back to it, for so many reasons! I got back into the habit, and then out of it again when my feet were operated on. I’m not quite ready to get back to it, but I hope to sometime soon.
  11. An early night. Getting enough sleep is rare – must try harder!
  12. Linguistics books.  I love language, and languages.  I studied linguistics at university and it’s still a passion.
  13. Warm sunshine.  Need I say more?
  14. Camping.  Just me, the other half and the kids, and NO wifi. Heaven.
  15. Pink / purple hair.  I like jazzing it up sometimes. I’m not ready for frumpiness! Oh I need to do this again (but I think my hairdresser would throttle me)
  16. Homemade Pizza.  My husband makes the absolute best pizza in the world – his pizza dough is the stuff of legends.
  17. A good novel. 
  18. Kickboxing.  I only started at the beginning of the year, but I’m hooked. Trying for my orange belt in a couple of weeks time. I had to give up kickboxing a couple of years ago when kicking became too painful for my feet, but I got as far as my first brown belt!
  19. A glass of good red wine.  Malbec is a current favourite. And still is!
  20. Living here.  ‘Here’ is Beddgelert, in the heart of Snowdonia.  It’s often wet, but it’s also very green, very picturesque, very Welsh, and I never EVER take it for granted. I’ve done city living, now I’m home.
  21. Cheese.  Love love cheese. Except for goat’s cheese, bleugh…
  22. Barbecues.  With friends, sunshine and a couple of beers.
  23. My filofax. I’d be lost without it.  PLEASE don’t let me ever lose it!!
  24. The Archers. I don’t watch any soaps on TV, but I do like my daily 15min fix of this.  I stopped listening to the Archers almost two years ago, when it went off the air in the first lockdown, and I’ve never got round to picking it up again. Maybe I will now.
  25. A tidy, clear kitchen.  It’s rare, but yeah, I like it 🙂
  26. Baking.  Cakes, cookies, scones, shall I go on?
  27. Netflix. I don’t watch much TV, but when I do get a free evening, House of Cards and Dexter are current faves. The Sopranos, The Killing & Breaking Bad were just incredible. There doesn’t seem to be as much good stuff on these days – or is it just me?
  28. Learning languages.  Currently it’s Russian. I did a short course at Uni, then did evening classes in my 30s and got to GCSE Level, and now I’ve taken it back up again with the Duolingo app. Now I just need someone to practice on!!
  29. Long walks in the countryside.  But at the moment they’re never long enough for me as we’re trying hard not to go too far and put the children off walks for good!! Since I wrote this Jac the Collie joined us, so I’m walking more than ever, but it’s not often the kids join us.
  30. Days on the beach. With the children.  Building sandcastles and playing in the waves.
  31. My children laughing.  I could have just said my children.  And they do, of course make me happy, but they also drive me utterly crazy at times.  But hearing them laugh?  That’s just the best
  32. Blog feedback.  A little click on that ‘like’ button, or even better, a quick comment, is always appreciated, and guaranteed to make me happy! Unless the comment is to tell me you hate my blog. That wouldn’t make me happy…
  33. Greek yoghurt with fresh berries. Not that horrid low fat rubbish mind – it has to be full fat!!
  34. Fresh bedding. Show me someone who DOESN’T like fresh linen on the bed!
  35. Modern Technology.  My fitbit is never off my arm, and I don’t know what I’d do without my bluetooth speakers!
  36. My mum’s trifle.She brought some to hospital after the birth of my first child.  Best post-delivery snack EVER.  But it mustn’t have jelly in it. Never ever put jelly in it.  Maybe I should share the recipe?
  37. Reese’s Peanutbutter Cups.  Not a huge fan of peanut butter really, but add it to chocolate and I could eat it all day.
  38. Christmas at home.  Surrounded by family.
  39. My husband’s cooking. I already mentioned his pizza up there ^^  But it’s not just pizza.  He does most of the cooking in our house and he’s flippin’ good at it. I’m a lucky bunny.
  40. Climbing mountains. It’s been over 7 years since I last climbed a mountain. Not since I was pregnant with my eldest.  The youngest starts full time school in September and I’ve already told my husband that he needs to book a day’s holiday THAT VERY WEEK and we’re heading to the top of the nearest mountain. We did! That very week! I still LOVE getting to the top of a mountain.
  41. Swimming in the sea. Or a river, or a lake. But not in the cold – I am a lightweight….
  42. Roller coasters and water slides. I’m a thrill seeker at heart.
  43. Adventures abroad. I’ve done a bit in my time – Asia, Australia, Europe, but the last time we were overseas was when I was pregnant with our eldest, and I’m getting itchy feet. Plans need to be made! We’ve still not been abroad – plans were made and then Covid struck. Maybe next year.
  44. The Big Bang Theory. Binge watched it on Netflix last year, and was bereft when we got to the end. Are they making more episodes? We’ve watched the whole series again since then 😀
  45. Nutella.  My guilty pleasure – I try not to indulge too much! I’m not such a fan these days, but I’ll bite your hand off for a dark chocolate digestive.
  46. Star Gazing. I used to be a member of the British Astronomical Association, and I’m fascinated with all things space-related.  Another of those hobbies that I hope to pick up again one day.
  47. Waking up really early, and actually getting up…
  48. Good grammar.  I’m a Grammar Nazi. I can’t help it, it’s in my DNA 😉
  49. Going to the cinema. These days it’s usually to see kids’ films, but I still enjoy the experience. I’ve still not seen an adult film in the cinema since that time!
  50. Second hand book Shops.  Big ones, that I could get lost in.

So there you go.  A little insight into what makes me, me.  

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!