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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.