Posted on Leave a comment

Our Jac

Blogtober 2021 – Day 11

Last week, in our FB group The Soap Mine Community, I put out a plea for blog post topics – I needed a little help given that I was going into Blogtober totally unprepared πŸ˜‰ This was one of the suggestions:

Ah, permission to waffle on about our lovely Jac! Well, ok then πŸ˜€

Jac joined us almost exactly three years ago, in November 2018. Our eldest child, Carwyn, was eight years old and had developed a real and profound fear of dogs. It’s no exaggeration to say he was absolutely terrified of all dogs. No matter their size, or how friendly they were, he couldn’t go anywhere near them and seriously panicked if one approached him (or even if there was one in the distance). It got to the point that he didn’t want to go for a walk or out on his bike in case in he came across a dog and it had a very negative impact on his day to day life.

A Solution

After much research and discussion, we asked Car if he thought that having a puppy might help him. It wasn’t a snap decision, and to be honest it took some time, and persuasion, for me to come round to the idea – I’d always been a cat person – but Car really wanted to get over his fear and we all felt that getting a dog of our own would help.

Not long after we’d made the decision we’d been told about some Border Collie puppies available on a local farm and went along ‘just to have a look’. Yep, that’s right, ‘just a look’ πŸ˜€ We left with Jac.

Puppy Jac
Puppy Jac

I’m not sure which of the children chose his name, but he was officially christened Jac on the journey home from the farm. ‘Jac’ because there’s no ‘K’ in the Welsh alphabet. Let’s just gloss over the fact that there’s no ‘J’ either!

Jac Settles In

Over the next week or so, two completely different issues almost made us question the sanity of our decision. First off, toilet training a puppy is neither easy nor fun. Logically we knew that it wouldn’t last long (and in fairness it didn’t) but when you’re doing it for the first time it is a bit of a shock to the system.

Secondly, and much more worryingly, Carwyn was struggling to get used to our new housemate. Jac was small, but he was boisterous and jumpy, with sharp little claws and teeth. Car took to walking around the house holding a child’s car booster seat in front of his legs to protect himself from the pup’s attentions. Thankfully within a couple of weeks he’d got a lot more comfortable with having Jac around and they started to become buddies. And before long they were the best of friends. What a relief!

Best buddies
Best buddies
Jac being patient!
Jac being patient!
Helping with Homework
Helping with Homework

Three years later, Carwyn is completely at ease with all dogs. Within a few months of becoming best mates with Jac, he was fine around other dogs, and these days actively enjoys meeting new dogs.

And Now

There are, of course, other benefits to having Jac in our lives, not least the fact that one of us HAS to leave the house at least twice a day to take Jac out. He’s an active dog who needs a lot of exercise, whatever the weather. He loves to play with his frisbee and jump in puddles and so, rain or shine, we’re out every day. Interestingly, unlike many Collies, he’s never chewed anything in the house. It could just be a coincidence but I think it might have something to do with us seeing it as a personal challenge to try to exhaust him every time we go out πŸ˜€

Lovely Jac – always so happy to see me in the morning and crazy excited when he senses we’re about to for a walk. He gets gently jealous if I’m hugging the children, trying to poke his nose between us if we’re standing, or plopping his head on my lap if we’re sitting down. Jac’s generally very quiet and rarely barks, or makes any noise at all really, until he’s in water – give him a puddle or a stream, a river or a lake, and he’ll swim around barking with pure excitement. He has a really sweet temperament – he loves people and will drop his frisbee at any old stranger’s feet – but woe betide any dog who tries to get between him or his frisbee!

I’m sure there’s plenty more I could say but it’s nearly 11.30pm and I need to press the ‘publish’ button before it’s no longer Day 11. So good night, and thank you for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 12!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Making of Eryri Handmade Soap

Blogtober 2021 – Day 10

My number one bestselling soap is Eryri, the landscape soap:

Four bars of Eryri handmade soap
Eryri Handmade Soap
Eryri Handmade Soap
Eryri Handmade Soap

I’m pretty rubbish with technology, but I’ve been asked so many times to record some videos of my soapmaking I thought I ought to give it a go, and this video shows me pouring and sculpting Eryri. Some people use scrapers to ensure that all the bars are uniform in design, but I sculpt my layers freehand, so no two bars are ever the same. I like them that way πŸ˜‰

I always make this in batches of six loaves (90 bars), but you only see five in the video – the sixth was just out of shot.

I don’t think there’s much else to say about this one, but if you have any questions just pop them in the comments below and I’ll respond asap.

Thanks for reading (and watching). I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 11.

Posted on 2 Comments

Saturday Morning Board Meeting

Blogtober 2021 – Day 9

No, silly, not THAT kind of board meeting! This morning’s meeting was with a friend, to go paddle-boarding. We met up at 8am and drove all of two minutes up the road to our nearest lake with our trusty boards and paddles. We’d already checked the forecast and knew it should be dry, but it was also incredibly still, and the surrounding scenery reflected in the lake was just stunning.

We made our way up to the end of the lake where the water flows in, and started to make our way up stream. This was my first time exploring this way and also my first time trying to paddle upstream, and it all felt very Swallows and Amazons πŸ˜€

We got quite far before the force of the flow became too strong and we had to admit defeat and head back the way we came, into the lake again

We made it right around the lake and back to our starting point by 10am, where we enjoyed hot chocolate and flapjacks on the shore before heading home. That’s MY kind of board meeting πŸ˜‰

Hope you’re having a lovely weekend whatever you’re up to – back tomorrow with something soap related, but I’m sure I don’t know what yet!

Posted on Leave a comment

Soap Tops

Blogtober 2021 – Day 8

I lurve soap tops. Fancy or plain, swirled or textured, it really doesn’t matter to me, I love them all. My favourite posts on Instagram are often the tops of bars, wet or dry, in the mould or cut… So, having had a really busy day trying to finish off everthing before the weekend (and not having spared a single thought for today’s blog post) I thought I’d share some favourite pics of some of my recent soap tops.

Serenity handmade soap
Clarity handmade soap
Watermelon handmade soap
Traeth handmade soap
Botanica handmade soap

Back tomorrow for Day 9

Posted on Leave a comment

The Cut of Serenity

Blogtober 2021 – Day 7

A quick and easy post today in the shape of the cut of Serenity made on Monday – 120 bars cut on my ancient single string soap cutter! It’s quite a so process and I’m getting very close to ordering a fancy-pants multi-string cutter – yey! (Maybe it’ll be here before the end of the month so I’ve got another easy blog post πŸ˜‰ )

So anyway here they are, some quick snaps of Serenity taken today, literally seconds after they were cut from the loaf:

I love how there’s never, ever, two identical bars. These particular ones have now been put down for their 6 week nap, but there’s plenty available on the website – get yours here.

Thanks for reading, almost a quarter of the way there now! Back tomorrow with Day 8

Posted on Leave a comment

Cold Process Gets Hot

Blogtober 2021 – Day 6

During the summer, while I was trying to button down the fragrances I wanted to use for the autumn specials, I came across the most amazing Toffee Apple fragrance. Unfortunately it was an absolute nightmare to use in cold process soap. It massively accelerated trace, and did actually turn the soap solid in the bucket before I could even think about adding colour, never mind pour it into moulds. Nevertheless, I adored the fragrance and decided to break with tradition and offer my customers a soap made using the hot process method. If you’re not sure what that is – check out this post

Now I’m really not an expert at this method, and while some people can make amazing looking soap this way, my attempts have always been pretty basic and rustic looking, with no fancy swirls or patterns, and that was just how this one came out.

I honestly didn’t think I would sell very many at all, so only made 30 bars, but completely underestimated my lovely customers loyalty and preparedness to try something new and sold out within the hour – arrghh! I felt duty bound to make more PDQ, which I did. A couple of days ago.

Hot process soap is generally made in a slow cooker / crockpot, and is so called because additional heat is added to the soapmaking process to speed up saponification. However, knowing how quickly this fragrance accelerates trace, I dispensed completely with the crockpot but made sure that my oils and lye solution were significantly hotter than I would normally have them. I added the fragrance to the heated oils and butters first and mixed very well, to ensure that it was completed incorporated. I then slowly added the hot lye solution to the oils and mixed well again. It turned solid in the bucket quite quickly, and I let it sit for a while it continued to heat up. This is NOT something I would recomend for any beginner soapmakers, overheated caustic soap batter is dangerous.

I’ve tried to upload a video of the mixing of the batter but I can’t seem to get it work, but here are a couple of photos:

Once I was happy that it was all thoroughly mixed and of the right ‘vaseline-like’ texture I plopped it into the moulds. They’re certainly not the most beautiful ‘in-the-mould’ photos πŸ˜‰

Toffee Apple in the mould

Yesterday I unmoulded and cut the loaves and I’m really happy with how they turned out. While I usually give my regular bars a full 6 weeks cure time, these psuedo-hot process bars don’t need quite so long, and will be available for purchase on, aptly enough, 31st October.

Toffee Apple freshly cut

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow for Day 7

Posted on Leave a comment

Today’s Makes

Blogtober 2021 – Day 5

This morning I made 120 bars of Serenity soap. Serenity the fourth best selling soap on the website, and so far this year I’ve made a whopping 720 bars.

It’s fragranced with a custom blend of Ylang Ylang, Lemon, Orange and Patchouli essential oils, and I’m often told that it’s a very ‘spa-like’ fragrance.

They’re overnighting in their moulds as I type, but I’ll unmould and cut them tomorrow, and will share a photo of the cut in a future post.

Thanks for reading – I’ll be back tomorrow with Day 6!

Posted on 2 Comments

A Custom Landscape Bar

Blogtober 2021 – Day 4

So, Day 4 and I confess I wonder what on earth possessed me to do this. The reality of having to come up with a blog post every day (when I’ve managed about three in the last year) has well and truly hit home. Had I made the decision back in September I might have pre-written a bunch of posts, or at least prepared some topics / ideas beforehand. But noooo, that would have been too easy…

But back to today, and it’s probably time for a soap related post. I was approached a few months back by Penmaenmawr Museum who not only wanted to stock my soap in their museum shop but were also interested in having a custom landscape-type bar created exclusively for them.

The town of Penmaenmawr is situated on the coast of north Wales and has an old slogan which goes ‘Penmaenmawr – twixt mountain and sea’, and the customer sent me the following sketch to give me an idea of what they wanted:

And this was what I made, scented with the same ‘outdoorsy’ essential oil blend as my regular Eryri landscape bar (get yours here)

Thankfully, the customer loves them and I quote: “These soaps look beautiful!Β  Thank you so much, exactly what we were hoping for.” Hooray!

Once they’re fully cured and properly wrapped and labelled for sale I’ll update this post with a ‘finished’ photo, but I thought Blogtober was a great opportunity to share them for the very first time. I hope you feel honoured πŸ˜€

If you’d like your o

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow!

Posted on Leave a comment

A Goal Achieved

Blogtober 2021 – Day 3

I had thought to write a quick round of ‘The Week in Soap’ today – always a good Blogtober fallback – but then something pretty cool happened and my fallback is no longer required πŸ˜‰

Some of you may know that back in June I had an operation on both of my feet to correct bunions and to treat advanced cartilage deterioration caused by arthritis. I’d been on the waiting list for nearly 4 years, and had suffered daily pain for far longer than that, so when the hospital called asking whether I would be willing to be admitted for surgery within a fortnight, I didn’t have to think about it for too long.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, the surgery went ahead as planned on Wednesday 23rd June. The affected joints in my big toes were broken and had steel rods inserted to fuse the the joints. It was a day case under general anaesthetic and I was given special shoes to get me back on my feet straight afterwards but I had to make judicious use of painkillers and rest for long periods of time afterwards. I spent the whole of the unusually great weather during July (and my birthday!) in plaster casts, but they eventually came off on the 2nd August and rehabilitation began in earnest.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Prior to the surgery I walked a lot. I averaged 17,000 steps a day, but 22,000 wasn’t unusual. Obviously this dropped right down post-op, but as the weeks go by I’ve slowly been increasing my activity and this week, for the very first time, I managed to walk over 10,000 steps EVERY DAY! This is a massive milestone for me, and worth a blog post dontcha think? πŸ˜‰

Thanks for reading – back tomorrow πŸ™‚

Posted on Leave a comment

The Autumn Specials

Blogtober 2021 – Day 2

So, I’ve done a little research and I’m happy to announce that I am NO closer to having a plan for this 31 day jaunt into Blogland. Search Google or Pinterest and there’s no end of ideas for Blogtober blog posts, but I’m massively underqualified to write about ‘My Favourite Fall Outfit’, ‘Updating Your Make-Up for Autumn’ and ‘Making the Perfect Pumpkin Spice Latte’ so it looks like I’ll be winging it. There’ll probably be a little bit about soap and soap-making, a little bit about The Soap Mine, and a little bit about me.

Today’s post is going to be a quick round up of the limited edition autumn special range, which was released on Friday 24th September. It does feel a LITTLE pointless blogging about them now, given that they’ve already sold out, but it’ll be nice to have a record of them all in one place for posterity.

There were four autumn specials this year – Campfire Marshmallow, Hocus Pocus, Vetiver and Toffee Apple. Getting them all made in time was a real challenge; I was out of action for roughly three weeks during the end of June / beginning of July, and when the time came to make the autumn bars I was still in stock-making catch-up mode. As it was I ran out of time and was only able to make half the number of Vetiver that I’d planned to make. Toffee Apple threw another spanner in the works. It’s an AMAZING fragrance, but behaves very badly in soap, turning it solid in the mixing bowl within seconds. With this in mind I decided to experiment with the HP (Hot Process) soapmaking method which was very successful but resulted in a bar which looked much more rustic than the others in the range. Being sure that they wouldn’t be as popular as the others, I only made 30. Big mistake but hey ho…

Campfire Marshmallow

A delicious sweet-and-smoky toasted marshmallow fragrance with caramel & vanilla on a base of smoky campfire, and was back for it’s second outing after going down a storm last autumn. I made two designs – firstly an attempt at a ‘fire’ type pattern which I wasn’t 100% happy with, but which looked so much better once the soap had cured a bit, and secondly a more abstract pattern with identical colours. With hindsight I should probably have stuck with the first design – noted for next year (because I’ll get shot if this doesn’t come back as part of next years autumn range)

Campfire Marshmallow
Campfire Marshmallow

Hocus Pocus

The was a new-to-me fragrance which is predominantly sweet cherry with notes of almond, vanilla and sherberty citrus fruits. I’ve never made Halloween soaps as such, but I wanted this one to have that kind of feel, and the colours reflected that idea. I ran a competition in The Soap Mine Community Facebook group to find a name, and Hocus Pocus was the winner.

Hocus Pocus

Vetiver

This was another new-to-me fragrance which had been requested a few times, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the smell out of the bottle. In soap though? It’s phenomenal – a deep, woodsy and very sexy smell which I just kept going back to. I can’t describe it better than the description given by one of my awesome testers, so I’m just going to share it all here:

“This is the one I’ll buy for my husband cause it smells just like a whiff of gorgeous bearded man in the woods with an axe and just a hint of danger and sparkle in his eye!! A bit like sweet masculine sweat fighting with the fresh scent of soap they slathered on in a tin shower at dawn in the mountains, the two intermingled but perfectly balanced! And it’s the one I’ll borrow just occasionally enough so I can carry that image around with me”

How’s that for a recommendation!! I’m convinced this particular description is the reason it sold out within 12 hours, so thank you Laura!!

Vetiver

Toffee Apple

A delicious blend of tart apple with just enough sweet caramel to make it irrisistable! A very naughty fragrance but too good not to share, which I why I used the Hot Process method to make this one. Sadly I only made 30 bars and it sold out within the first 2 hours. I’ve had to promise to make more forthwith!

Toffee Apple

Day 2 of Blogtober wasn’t too painful. Just another 29 days to go πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back tomorrow.