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The Week in Soap: 8th Oct ’17 (Blogtober 9)

It’s been a quieter week on the soaping front.  I was grateful for that to be honest – we had family visiting for the first half of the week, and I’ve been getting into the swing of Blogtober.  Day 9 today, almost a third of the way through the month already!!

On Monday I made two double batches, both restocks, of Welsh Rose and Blodau:

Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould
Welsh Rose & Blodau (Flowers) in the mould

The Welsh Rose wasn’t my best – it accelerated a little and the colours weren’t as bright as they usually are, but it’ll be fine.  The Blodau on the other hand, turned out great  – this is a closeup of it in the mould which proved to be really popular on Instagram:

Close up of Blodau in the mould
Close up of Blodau in the mould

On Tuesday I made more restocks – double batches of Clarity and Traeth Craig Du (Black Rock Sands):

Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould
Clarity & Traeth Craig Du in the Mould

The new wire for my cutter arrived on Tuesday, and it would appear I ordered the wrong one again. AARRGGHHH  It was a coiled string (?) and slightly thicker than I expected it to be.  Well, we fitted it onto the cutter anyway (taking a bit of a risk but by Wednesday morning I had 12kg of soap to cut and I couldn’t risk it getting too hard) and although it IS a little too thick, it did the trick.  I did a bit of research and discovered that I probably need 20 gauge wire, so I’ve ordered some and it should be here soon.  What a flippin’ palaver!

On Wednesday evening I gave my regular weekly soapmaking presentation.  I can’t tell you how much I enjoy giving these. It often turns into a bit of a conversation rather than a ‘talk’ and I get to indulge in waffling on about my favourite subject to a captive audience. AND then I get to sell them soap too!  I’ve only got another two or three weeks to go before they stop for the winter, but the manager has already asked me to go back next season – hurrah!

Thursday was another completely soap free day, and Friday was spent in the office, cutting soap, labelling soap, wrapping soap, photographing soap etc etc….

I took some better pictures of my Christmas specials, which I’ll be sharing with you this week, and of the mountain soap (from yesterday’s post) and this one – the Blodau from earlier this week:

Blodau - just cut
Blodau – just cut

I realised that the reason I don’t get round to sharing cut pictures as much as the ones in the mould is that I don’t usually tidy them up until they’ve been curing for a couple of weeks, so I made and effort to try to tidy up the freshly cut bar and take a picture, and it worked ok I think:

Blodau, tidied up
Blodau, tidied up

Towards Friday evening I started to develop a sore throat which worsened as the evening went on and meant I got very little sleep on Friday night. Saturday was spent feeling ill, lethargic, weak and sorry for myself generally, and Sunday was mostly spent in bed, trying desperately to kick whatever it was that was making me feel so rubbish…

I’ll be back tomorrow, come what may, hopefully with a clearer head and body that’s more willing to co-operate!!

Vickx

 

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A Name Change (Blogtober 8)

For the last few months I’ve been working on a mountain design. I live in the heart of Snowdonia, practically at the foot of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) itself, and wanted to make a bar of soap that might appeal to the many walkers and climbers who are drawn to the area.

The last version of Yr Wyddfa looked like this:

Yr Wyddfa
Yr Wyddfa

Although they proved to be really popular (and I sold all 30 bars in record time) I wasn’t happy with the design.  Firstly, Snowdon doesn’t look like that. Secondly, (faint of heart look away now) it looked like a big ole pile of dog s**t. Not what I want people to be thinking when they look at a bar of my soap!!

So, anyway, a few weeks ago I made another attempt using the sculpted layers method. (I need to make another batch soon so I’ll try to do a tutorial at that point, but in the meantime there’s a great tutorial here by Danica of Seife & Anderes.  I had thought that this method would give me uniform bars, all with a similar looking mountain scene, but nope, I think I need a fair bit more practice for that to be the case…

New version, to be renamed 'Eryri'
Yr Wyddfa reinvented…

Although these mountains look much more realistic, they still don’t look like Yr Wyddfa, and are clearly not uniform.  Pondering this dilemma I had a lightbulb moment.  I’ll just change the name of the bar from Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) to Eryri (Snowdonia).  We have so many mountains in Snowdonia, why limit myself to trying to reproduce one peak when I could potentially represent them all? 😀

The colours aren’t quite right in these, I think I need to revert to my dog s**t colours!!

So, introducing Eryri (Snowdonia). It’s fragranced with a blend of peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, patchouli and lime essential oils – a fresh, outdoorsy scent.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

Posted on 9 Comments

A Name Change (Blogtober 8)

For the last few months I’ve been working on a mountain design. I live in the heart of Snowdonia, practically at the foot of Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) itself, and wanted to make a bar of soap that might appeal to the many walkers and climbers who are drawn to the area.

The last version of Yr Wyddfa looked like this:

Yr Wyddfa
Yr Wyddfa

Although they proved to be really popular (and I sold all 30 bars in record time) I wasn’t happy with the design.  Firstly, Snowdon doesn’t look like that. Secondly, (faint of heart look away now) it looked like a big ole pile of dog s**t. Not what I want people to be thinking when they look at a bar of my soap!!

So, anyway, a few weeks ago I made another attempt using the sculpted layers method. (I need to make another batch soon so I’ll try to do a tutorial at that point, but in the meantime there’s a great tutorial here by Danica of Seife & Anderes.  I had thought that this method would give me uniform bars, all with a similar looking mountain scene, but nope, I think I need a fair bit more practice for that to be the case…

New version, to be renamed 'Eryri'
Yr Wyddfa reinvented…

Although these mountains look much more realistic, they still don’t look like Yr Wyddfa, and are clearly not uniform.  Pondering this dilemma I had a lightbulb moment.  I’ll just change the name of the bar from Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) to Eryri (Snowdonia).  We have so many mountains in Snowdonia, why limit myself to trying to reproduce one peak when I could potentially represent them all? 😀

The colours aren’t quite right in these, I think I need to revert to my dog s**t colours!!

So, introducing Eryri (Snowdonia). It’s fragranced with a blend of peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, patchouli and lime essential oils – a fresh, outdoorsy scent.

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

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Social Saturday (Blogtober 7)

Welcome to the weekend folks!  I’m not only celebrating the fact that it’s SATURDAY but also that I’ve got to the end of the first week of Blogtober without too much difficulty.

Hooray

As well as writing and posting, I’ve also been doing a little blogosphere housekeeping this week. I’ve been working my way through the list of blogs that I follow and have stopped following anyone who hasn’t posted since the beginning of 2016.  I was REALLY surprised, and a little saddened, at how many there are were.  Saddened because some of these blogs were people that, at one time, I absolutely loved following and reading, but I hadn’t even noticed how long it had been since they last posted.  Circumstances change, lives move on, and I do wonder what happened to those people I admired so much. I hope they’re all ok…

Anyway, I realised that the number of active soapy / skincare bloggers that I follow has seriously diminished, and wondered how to plug that gap.  As ‘Social Saturday’ (the concept of inviting people to share their profiles / accounts via your own) seems to have become a bit of a thing on various social media recently, I thought I would offer up this post as a place where anyone with a soap / skin care / bath & beauty type blog could share their blog and perhaps find new ones to follow themselves.

So! Don’t be shy – even if I already follow you, please share your blog in the comments below so that others can find you and hopefully follow you too.

And don’t forget there is also a dedicated Facebook group for soapmaking (and other types of skincare) bloggers here 

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow 🙂

Vickx

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Viennese Fingers (Blogtober 6)

Soapmakers Eat Too…

Every year, in mid-August, our village holds a Horticultural & Craft Show. Gardeners, photographers, crafters and cooks compete to show off their skills and be the best in their category.  Our garden is still a work in progress, I’m no photographer and I’ve had no time recently for any craft bar soapmaking, but baking… now baking I can do.  I entered six classes, and won four firsts and two seconds (go me!) One of the firsts was for my Viennese Fingers*

Viennese Fingers
Viennese Fingers

Ok, so these may look a little wonky, but they’re prize winners!  They really are the lightest, crumbliest and shortest of biscuits which are ridiculously easy and surprisingly quick to make. I’ve been making at least one batch (usually two!) of these each week recently and they’re loved by the whole family. Give ’em a go and impress your nearest and dearest.

Before you start, preheat your oven to 180C – if you have a super-efficient oven then you might want to reduce it to 170/175C, but either way keep an eye on the biscuits as they’re cooking.

This recipe will make approx. 20 fingers.

Ingredients:

  • 175g soft margarine (you could use butter, but I’ve found marge is better in these)
  • 60g icing sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 60g cornflour
  • 100-150g plain dark chocolate

You’ll also need a piping bag and nozzle. This is the one I use.

Piping nozzle
Piping nozzle

It needs to be be fairly big as the mixture is quite dense – this one is 3cm diameter at its wide end…

To make up the biscuit mix, thoroughly beat together the margarine and the icing sugar with an electric mixer:

Ingredients, thoroughly combined
Margarine & Icing Sugar

Add the two flours and mix well again:

All ingredients combined
All ingredients combined

Now you’re ready to pipe – it really IS that easy 🙂

Place the nozzle into the piping bag (I often use disposable piping bags blah blah…and fill the bag with the biscuit mixture.  I find it helps to place the bag into a large glass and fold the ends over the top of the glass to hold it in place…

Piping Bag in a Glass
Filling the Piping Bag in a Glass
Filled Piping Bag
Filled Piping Bag

Grab a couple of baking sheets, cover them with greaseproof / baking paper – do NOT grease neither the trays nor the baking paper. Pipe 10 ‘fingers’ of mix onto each lined tray (leaving 1-2cm between them as they will spread a little).  As you can see from this picture my piping isn’t particularly uniform, but who cares?!

Piped fingers, ready to be baked
Piped fingers, ready to be baked

Put them in the oven and time them for 14-15 minutes.  See these little round ones at the front? That’s what I do with any mixture left in the bag that I don’t think will make a full finger-worth of biscuit – perfect sized morsels to pop in your mouth when nobody’s looking 😉

Fingers in the Oven
Fingers in the Oven

You want them just cooked, barely beginning to brown… The ones on the top here are too brown – you want them more like the ones on the bottom..

Baked Viennese Fingers
Baked Viennese Fingers

WHILE they’re in the oven, break up melt the dark chocolate. I stand a narrow mug in boiling water in a saucepan, and melt the chocolate in that.

Melting Chocolate
Melting Chocolate

Once cooked, take the fingers out of the oven, leave to cool for a few moments, then transfer them onto a wire rack to cool.   DO NOT throw away the greaseproof/baking paper – we’re going to use it again in just a moment.

When the fingers are cool to the touch, take them one by one and dip one end, and then the other, in the melted chocolate.  Place it back down on the greaseproof/baking paper on the baking tray.  Try to make sure that the chocolate from one finger doesn’t touch the chocolate from another or they’ll stick together when solidified and can be difficult to part without breaking the fingers themselves.

If (like me) you find this process a little tedious, simply place the fingers onto the greaseproof/baking paper and drizzle the melted chocolate all over them:

Dipped or Drizzled? You choose...
Dipped or Drizzled? You choose…

Place them, still on their lined trays, into the refrigerator for half an hour then hey presto, you have the most delicious accompaniment to your afternoon cup of tea. Or coffee, if you absolutely must 😉

Thanks for reading, back tomorrow!

Vickx

*Ahem* I’m going to completely gloss over the fact that I was actually the only person to enter the Viennese Fingers category in this year’s show.  I am reliably informed that had they not been up to scratch, I would absolutely, definitely, without a doubt, NOT have been awarded a first for them. And anyway, they WERE bloody good!!!

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Soap Samples (Blogtober 5)

Every time I cut a loaf of soap – I always have a fair sized chunk left over at the end of the loaf. Not so thick as to be a saleable bar but perfect to cut into four and use as sample bars.  Their uses, as a general rule, are twofold

1. As free samples to be popped in the box when anyone places an order and

Free sample bar
Free sample bar

2. To be given out to retail outlets with each wholesale order, one per fragrance ordered, so that customers can get a good idea of the fragrance

Retail samples
Retail samples

I ALSO have left over the very thin end piece that I slice off the loaf when I begin cutting it:

Thin end slices
Thin end slices

and recently I started wondering how I could use them.  A couple of years back, at Christmas time, I had bundled up various end pieces, wrapped them up in raffia and sold them as sample packs at market:

End piece bundles
End piece bundles

But I wanted something a little ‘neater’, and then I remembered this blog post by Emily at Soap & Restless, and went on the hunt in the kitchen for a suitably sized cookie cutter.  This was the result:

Cookie Cutter Samples
Cookie Cutter Samples

I’m still not entirely sure what I’m going to do with them. Maybe cut a hole in each one and string them onto some ribbon or raffia?  Or just use them as prettier free samples? It would be an easy enough process to continue slicing that last chunk into thinnish slices, so I should still be able to get four samples out of each end chunk…  What do you think?  Which sample would you prefer to get with your order?

Back tomorrow,

Vickx

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It’s Here! Blogtober 2017

It's Blogtober!Yikes!! It’s the first of October, and that means it’s the first day of the annual blogging challenge, Blogtober. Because I managed it last year (by the skin of my teeth), I seemed to think that I would have no problem repeating that success this year… until this week. This last week has been crazy busy, and I’m not sure how I oculd have fitted in seven (!!) blog posts as well. But more about that in the next post…

Anyhow, a few of us in the Soapmaking Bloggers Facebook Group have taken up the challenge, and will be sharing our posts using the #blogtobersoapers hashtag on social media. Keep an eye out for us – a bit of cheerleading is always welcome 😀

A lot of my posts will be soap related, but by no means all (even complete soap obsessives do other things sometimes). I have a vague idea of various topics I could waffle on about, but if I’m honest, I’ll mostly be winging it. Good grief, did I get a bump to the head?

Back tomorrow,

Vickx