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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 πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ™‚
  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 πŸ˜€
  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 πŸ˜‰
  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!

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Me and My Welsh

Blogtober 2021 – Day

Or should that be, My Welsh and I?

One of the suggestions that came up when I asked for blog post ideas in our FB group (The Soap Mine Community) was to talk about my relationship with the Welsh language:

My parents met in north Wales, in the area in which I now live. My mum is Welsh through and through – both her parents were first language Welsh speakers and both were FAR more comfortable speaking Welsh than English. Dad was English, from Newcastle, and they met when he came to the area to work. They got married, moved away to England, and then six months after I was born we all move back to Wales.

I have absolutely no idea how much Welsh I heard during the first six months of my life. I do know for certain that if any of mum’s relatives were around they would all have been speaking Welsh, but it’s unlikely I heard it much day to day. That all changed when we moved back to Wales and by the time I was uttering my first words I was surrounded by Welsh speaking family. My Nain (grandmother) and Taid (grandfather) would never speak English unless it was absolutely necessary (or if it would have been rude not to), and the rest of my family, although much more confident speaking English, would probably not choose to unless there was a non-Welsh speaker around.

So I guess I never ‘learnt’ Welsh, I was simply brought up bilingually. I spoke English with Dad, and Welsh with mum, I watched mostly English language TV programmes, and spoke Welsh with some school friends and English with others. My primary schooling was all done through the medium of Welsh (other than specific English lessons), as is still the case for the majority of primary schools in Gwynedd. However I did most of my secondary schooling through the medium of English. It’s probably fair to say that although I was still speaking Welsh with family and friends on a daily basis, by the time I was 15/16 I was far more confident writing and reading in English.

At 18 I left Wales and, bar a few short periods of living at home here and there, it would be 26 years before I moved back here permanently. By that time I’d got married, had two children and didn’t know what the heck we were going to do about schools for them. None of the local schools in the area we lived in in Manchester were particularly appealing, and despite my neglecting my Welsh for so many years, both Dean and I really wanted the children to have some knowledge of their Welsh heritage and the language.

One thing that surprised me while living in Manchester (and actually really wound me up) was the lack of knowledge amongst friends and aquaintances about the Welsh language. People genuinely had no idea, and had trouble accepting, that Welsh is very much a living language, in daily use. I know many people who are more comfortable speaking Welsh, who only listen to Welsh radio, and prefer to watch Welsh language TV. I’m not going to get on my soap box here, but that common gripe about people only starting to speak Welsh when a visitor comes along is utter tripe πŸ˜‰ A tripe gripe.

So that’s me and my Welsh. I speak both English and Welsh every single day and if I had to quantify it I’m sure it’s almost always more Welsh than English. And to answer the original questions – Yes, I learnt as a young child and I was very much raised in a Welsh speaking community, as are my own children today.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

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Musings on the Nature of Soap – A Guest Post

Blogtober 2021 – Day 20

When it was suggested to me that I could include guest posts as a ‘Cheating But Not Really’ way to help with this daily posting palaver, I could have jumped for joy. Of course! Great idea! The one flaw in the plan was finding someone to actually write a guest post. Haha!

I need not have worried. Within the hour I had a guest post on the nature of soap! Lovely LOVELY Laura, a customer and friend who’s also a moderator in our FB group, came up with the goods in record time. I absolutely love this piece of writing ,and I’m very happy to be able to share it with you today. Thank you Laura!

Anyway, enough from me. Read, and enjoy.

Soap. What is soap? It’s an everyday necessity, a regular occurrence, our familiar friend. To some a status of the divide between poverty and power, to others a luxury treat, a revelation that is transformative in its magic as it takes you from a hard days work or sleepless night to a new being, fresh and filled with promise.

Yet to most it’s still just a lump of lather that encapsulates cleanliness, soft scented and subtle but mostly thoughtlessly forgettable as bubbles disappear down a gurgling drain along with the unseen nasties of daily life and it deserves far more recognition!

There are so many layers and complexities to soap, endless forms and shapes carved by its creator. A gorgeously hand poured chunk, lovingly cured and embraced with bevelled curves, a bland boring bar complete with the stamp seen a world over, anonymous blocks in hotel bathrooms and the luminescent liquid beside every unknown public sink. You see it, touch it, invite it into crack and crevasse; every stretch mark, hidden scar, palm lines and fingertip whorls unchanging as soap prepares hardened skin for what is to come and gives it a moment of unadorned peace.

Soap can be sensual, caressed onto a partners back at the beck and call of a shared shower, or loving as you rub between your child’s fingers over the sink in rushed seconds before the oven timer signals a family meal. It can be gifted, cherished in neatly cut wrapping and passed along from friend to companion at birthdays, Christmases, special occasions. It can be treasured, adored, used daily or hourly then lost for months down the side of the bathtub and re-found in a fit of joy; bubbles and aroma untouched where other goods would have perished. Soap is reliable, sturdy and honest, shrinking softly over time as you take what you need and it gives unrelenting to you, silently contented to fulfil its only purpose.

Soap makes its mark creeping onto life’s calendar unseen; regularity with a nightly shower or the final chapter on a bathroom break visit. It gives its tender touch to the first bath taken by a wailing red newborn and the final gentle wipe of the mortician. It is universal, everyday mundane and yet more often than not made with love, blood, sweat and tears, an unseen seal of dedication by its maker, yet it is unassuming in it’s simplicity setting, a brown paper parcel box waiting to be torn open and enjoyed.

The shy, unseen side of soap is that it’s essential yet humble, and if you take a single thought from these words just know that your soap is much more a part of existence than you could ever imagine and will continue to be, so give it the admiration and recognition it deserves. Choose well with what you invite into your skin for its scent will become synonymous with your own.

It is beautiful, it is basic and it’s a bargain for Β£5 bar

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A New Stockist – Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum

Blogtober 2021 – Day 19

One of today’s tasks was packing up a wholesale order for a brand new wholesale customer – Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth. Typically for me, I forgot to take a photo of the contents of the parcel before I sealed it up, but they’ll soon be receiving a fabulously smelling box of all of these:

I’d been thinking for a long time that I wanted to find a stockist in Aberystwyth, but yet hadn’t got around to doing any research, so imagine how thrilled I was (am!) that the museum approached me to enquire about becoming a stockist.

The museum is currently open Thursday to Saturday 11am – 4pm, is free to visit and has a rather nice gift shop from which, very soon, you’ll be able to buy your favourite soap. Do pop on by πŸ˜‰

Find them on Terrace Road, Aberystwyth, SY23 2AQ.

That was a quick one huh? That’s what Blogtober does to you πŸ˜€

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

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Five Tips For Using Soap Based Shampoo Bars

Blogtober 2021 – Day 18

Once upon a time, everyone used regular soap to wash their hair. They didn’t wash their hair anywhere near as often as we tend to today, but nevertheless, they used soap and their hair, generally, didn’t fall out. Then, in 1934, Proctor & Gamble launched the first synthetic, detergent-based liquid shampoo, and this became the go-to product for most people for many decades. During this time, some people continued to make, and use, soap specifically for hair washing – and STILL their hair didn’t fall out. I’m labouring this point because I’ve read a LOT of negative nonsense recently about soap based shampoo bars – claims that they’re bad for your hair and scalp. Well, I’ve used this type of shampoo bar, and nothing else, for the last four years and honestly? My hair is thick, long, and most definitely NOT falling out.

Soap-based shampoo bars are a great choice if you want to limit the amount of synthetic ingredients in your shampoo and they are less likely to cause skin irritations. They are free from sulphates and silicone, which can make them a good choice for dandruff prone hair. Shampoo based bars can also work out a lot cheaper gram for gram that syndet bars and, in my experience, last a lot longer. By the way, almost all traditional liquid shampoos are also synthetic detergents.

There are, however, some things to be aware of if you’re trying a soap based bar for the first time.

  1. Soap based shampoo bars work best in soft water areas. It’s perfectly possible to use them successfully in hard water areas – I have customers who do – but you may find it’s difficult to work up the big lather that you need for best results.
  2. You MAY experience the ‘Transition period’. Soap based shampoo affects your scalp very differently to traditional shampoo and it is perfectly normal to experience heavy, lank or greasy hair when you first make the switch. This is completely normal, and it can take from one to eight weeks for your scalp to rebalance sebum production. It WILL pass though. During the transition period it can help to use cider vinegar in the final rinse – simply mix one part apple cider vinegar with ten parts water.
  3. Make sure you work up lots of lather during washing. I’m not 100% sure why this works but having lots of lovely, abundant lather does make a difference.
  4. Rinse really, REALLY well. Any residual soap left in the hair is going to make it feel lank.
  5. If you use conditioner, use it on the ends only. Your scalp doesn’t need conditioner – it’s basically a detangler which protects the hair from becoming damaged while combing when wet. Ideally use a Soap Mine Solid Conditioner Bar along the length of the hair, paying particular attention to the ends.

The Soap Mine Shampoo Bar recipe is significantly different to the regular soap bars. It has been carefully formulated as shampoo and actually contains apple cider vinegar to lower the alkalinity a little. Nevertheless it is still soap. If you find that you simply can’t get on with it, just use it on the rest of your body. Nothing lost, and no waste!

I hope these tips help – please comment below if there’s anything you think I should add.

And if you’ve tried your best and soap based shampoo bars are definitely not for you, then why not try one of our Zero Waste Path Syndet Bars?

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

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Minya Zavood Vicki

Blogtober 2021 – Day 17

Did that title catch your attention? Pique your interest a little? Did you get that I’m learning Russian? Or perhaps you and everyone else will avoid clicking on this one, assuming that the pressure of Blogtober’s daily posting has finally driven me a little round the bend…

But no, today’s post is a little about me, and my passion for language/s. I have a degree in Linguistics, but today’s post is about my ongoing, on and off attempts to learn Russian.

I first started studying the Russian language back in 1992, when I started my degree in Linguistics. In my first year I had the opportunity to study two additional subjects, and I opted for Archaeology and Russian. Archaeology because I have a love of history, and Russian because all languages fascinate me, and it seemed like a bit of a challenge. I wasn’t wrong πŸ˜€

After that first year of study, Russian took a back seat to allow me to focus on the Linguistics, and in the years that followed I forgot a lot of what I’d learnt. Much later (circa 2002/3) and living in Manchester, I decided to pick it up again at evening classes, and eventually got my GCSE in Russian Language. Don’t aske me for proof, I have absolutely no idea where that certificate is!

Fast Forward to Now

I did very little with my basic Russian in the subsequent years, but have always retained my interest in it. Earlier this year, nearly twenty years since I last studied it and because I clearly don’t have enough to do ;-), I decided to take it up yet again. With two young children and a business to run I don’t have an awful lot of time, but my current learning medium of choice is Duolingo. Duolingo offers loads of different free language courses, and I’ve slowly been working my way through the Russian one. It has a nifty little feature that keeps track of your efforts in the form of a learning ‘streak’ – now I can’t NOT practice for fear of breaking the streak. I’m currently on 120 days!

I’m learning a fair bit, but this week I’ve started to need a little extra help so I sent Dean into the attic to dig out my old Russian text books. After much huffing and puffing he found me two dictionaries and a very old and dog eared copy of The Penguin Russian Course.

How far can I get with this with independent study? I’m not sure to be honest. I think I need to find some podcasts and perhaps some kids’ programmes on YouTube maybe? If you have any language learning suggestions please pop them in the comments – they’d be very much appreciated!

Oh and I almost forgot – the post title simply means ‘My Name is Vicki’ πŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow πŸ˜‰

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Blodau (Flowers) Soap

Blogtober 2021 – Day 16

Phew! Made it to the halfway point! Tonight’s post needs to be a quick one because as always, I have nothing prepared and Saturday night is family TV night in the Hinde household and we have a date with The Cube!

It’s been a busy week making soap (I’m still catching up with stock levels) so I thought I’d show you one of the batches that came off my one-woman production line this week. Blodau (Welsh Flowers) is scented with a 50:50 blend of lavender & ylang ylang essential oils. Ylang ylang on its own can be a bit heavy for some, but combined with lavender it’s just gorgeous. This bar has been my 7th best selling variety of regular soap bars on the website this year, but for some reason it’s more popular in wholesale orders where it’s my 4th most popular.

I generally make four loaves of soap in one batch – this was Blodau in the mould this week:

Blodau in the mould

The next day I unmoulded and cut the four loaves, and ended up with 60 bars of soap, no two of which were the same. I love how ever bar of soap I make is individual and unique:

Freshly cut Blodau
Freshly cut Blodau

All sixty bars have now been put to bed for their six week cure, but as always there’s plenty available on the website, get yours here!

Blodau Handmade Soap
Blodau Handmade Soap

Thanks for reading! Back tomorrow with Day 17 πŸ™‚

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The Purity Range

Blogtober 2021 – Day 15

I LOVE good smells. I’ve always been the one who has to sniff every variety of whatever’s on offer, and of course as a soapmaker, fragrance plays a huge part in my daily life. Not everybody feels the same though, and over the years I was often asked whether I offered a fragrance-free soap. It surprised me, actually, how regularly the subject came up. For a long time the only unscented soap I could offer those customers was Castile. Castile – pure olive oil soap – is a wonderfully gentle and mild bar but it doesn’t have the fluffy, abundant lather of my regular bars. Finally, last year, I decided to create a fragrance-free bar with that same fabulous lather.

That was was when Purity (Purdeb in Welsh) was born. I chose to make it uncoloured as well as fragrance free, and while I love my fragrances and colours, there is definitely something beautiful about a plain white bar in all it’s glory

Purity Handmade Soap

Purity proved to be a popular choice as soon as it was launched. It seemed to make sense to create a new category on the website for all the uncoloured/fragrance free options, and so the Purity range was created. If you’re not a fan of fragrance for whatever reason, you can now find fragrance-free soaps, solid shampoo, solid conditioner and a facial bar all in one place on the website.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow when I’ll be halfway through Blogtober! Hooray πŸ˜€

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It’s a Wax One…

Blogtober 2021 – Day 14

Today is our wedding anniversary. Sixteen whole years ago, on the 14th October, 2021, we got married, and look how young we were!

Happy

Sixteen years is DEFINITELY worth celebrating so we had a lovely lunch out, and then it was back to work for both of us. Might have eggs for dinner though!

Anniversary eggs, as fresh as fresh can be πŸ™‚

According to Google, sixteen years is traditionally celebrated with wax, which seems like the perfect opportunity to mention a lesser known Soap Mine product – Wax Melts

Some time ago I asked Jodie at Charismatic Cat whether she could make some exclusive wax melts for The Soap Mine. I wanted the same fragrances as six of my best selling bars/bath bombs – Lavender, Cysur, Traeth, Rose, Sugar Drops and Fresh Linen:

As the evenings draw in, wax melts are a great way to enhance cosy evenings. They give a gentle glow to the room while spreading the most delicious fragrance, or melt one in the bathroom while you take a bath with a matching soap and/or bathbomb – perfection! Get yours here

That’s it for today, thanks for reading! Back tomorrow πŸ˜‰

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A Day for Everything (or Anything)

Blogtober 2021 – Day 13

One Mothers’ Day, a few years back, my children gave me a teddy bear. They said they felt sorry for me because they had a lot of lovely teddies and I didn’t have even one! To be honest, I’ve not really given Elwyn the bear the attention he deserves, but when I realised that today was, wait for it… Bring Your Teddy Bear To Work & School Day I couldn’t resist πŸ˜‰ (Today is also No Bra day, you should be very thankful that I chose what I did…)

October 13th is…

Firstly I packed a few website orders. Every single retail order that leaves my workshop will contain a sample bar – something I think the customer might like to try. Elwyn did a very good job of reminding me to add a small sample bar into each parcel before it was sealed. Those bags are cellophane by the way, not plastic πŸ˜‰

Sample bars

Elwyn was great at checking a wholesale order before it went to be bevelled and labelled:

Checking a wholesale order before bevelling & wrapping

We bevelled and tidied up some bars of Eryri. Each individual bar is bevelled by hand – using a regular potato peeler – before it gets wrapped in its eco-friendly paper wrapper.

Bevelling Eryri Bars

Finally, we did a stock check – a LOT of soap bars have left the workshop in the last 10 days and I needed to know exactly how many of each bar I still had available – both fully cured and not yet cured:

Checking stock levels

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back tomorrow with a slightly less infantile post, but at least I got to show you just a small portion of what goes on in a typical working day at The Soap Mine.

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A Conditional Delay

Blogtober 2021 – Day 12

Tonight’s planned blog post was supposed to be all about soap for our four legged friends – it seemed appropriate after yesterday’s post about Jac the Crazy Collie. However things don’t always go to plan and now I find myself at 9.30pm having just finished work and with absolutely nothing prepared for today’s post…

Let me tell you why.

Last week I made lots and lots – hundreds! – of solid conditioner bars for a wholesale order.

Conditioner bars in the mould

Although I can only make 100 at a time (yes, I really do need to get additional moulds) I knew how long I needed to get them all made and I was organised and in control – or so I thought. What I didn’t count on was delays at the printers. My plan was to pick up the labels on Friday, box and label all the conditioner bars over the weekend (breaking my no weekend working rule AGAIN), and then deliver the whole lot on Monday.

Unfortunately the labels were overlooked on Friday but I was assured they’d be printed on Monday. I’d already told my customer that I’d be delivering them on Monday, so I had to email over the weekend and explain the delay. But somehow the printing got overlooked again on Monday – Dean turned up to collect them late Monday PM and YIKES they still weren’t done. Luckily I’d given myself a little bit of wriggle room with the new delivery time – late Tues pm or Wed am, I’d said – so when I finally got my hands on the labels at 5.30pm today I headed straight over to the office to get to work. Four hours later I’m finished and all boxed up and ready for delivery tomorrow morning:

So there you go. Sometimes mistakes happen, and things go awry, but at least it gave me something quick to write about this evening πŸ˜€

Click here to check out The Soap Mine range of solid conditioners for yourself.

Now I’m off to have something to eat and sit down and enjoy The Great British Bake Off a bit later than planned. Thanks for reading – back tomorrow.