Tuesday, 20 December 2011


And WHAT A HOPELESS BLOGGER I have been recently - I am so sorry but I have never been as busy before in my whole life!  I came back from my last trip to Portugal where we successfully launched 'PURO' and my feet just did not touch the ground.

I feel like I have been stuck in a permanent whirlwind, not in a bad way, dont get me wrong, it is great to be busy but really, it has been intense.

firstly coming up with new soaps for my Christmas ranges, then making, making, making.  I actually made about 3 times more soap than I have ever done before for Christmas, thinking this might be enough.  Not a bit of it, I sold out of all the Christmas soaps end of last week, Follow the Star being the most popular, then Snowberry and Christmas Spice.  The Gingerbread cupcakes went immediately (and I made hundreds!), Wild Berry soon followed and the Mince pies have just gone mad!!  People started asking for them back in October so I knew I just had to make them again.  I love them.  Put them in a big basket on the stall, about 100, and just watch people, looking, then looking again, then they come up and read the info.  A huge smile usually follows, they never fail to make people smile.

My Christmas Fairs and activities have been mixed, always great fun but not always worthwhile in terms of sales, but that is not always everything is it?  The Craft Hub event at Topsham "Twinkling Firs" was wonderful, the first complete sell out of mince pies!

Totnes Late Night Shopping Christmas Festival has not been great so far, but Aimee (my wonderful daughter) and her fiance Dave have been doing the last one tonight for me (so we can pack for our mega trip to Portugal tomorrow) and so far, it looks good.  They have very little to sell, but, hey, what there is left is still great soap!!

So, we are mostly sold out at the moment but I can promise I will come back from Portugal on 22nd January fired up and ready to go, also I should have some great new soaps to show you as well as the old favorites, so don't go anywhere!

LASTLY - I would like to wish you all a fabulous Christmas, may it bring you everything you want, and, in these hard times, it is probably more important than ever to remember those dear to you, spend as much time with friends and family as possible and laugh as much as you can.

Lots of love and Christmas wishes
aka Soapchick

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


WOW how fast do things come round?  Im back in Portugal again, this time to launch 'PURO' our fantastic new soap business, and open our first ever exhibition.

And you are all welcome!

Exposacao de
Sabonetes Artesanais


Biblioteca Ludoteca de Lagares da Beira
(Oliviera do Hospital)

02 a 30 Novembro 2011
Private View 7.30pm Friday 4 Novembro

We have been packing and labeling like mad and finally managed to beat our way through the rain to get the first of the soaps and info there and start to set up.

All packed up and ready to go

Newly wrapped Puro bars

Display starting to take shape

So there we are, the beginnings of a very exiting new business, started by two good friends living a fair few miles appart but both with a passion for soap making and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.  Keep watching as we have lots and lots of fantastic new things happening in the next 3 weeks and all will be documented here!

Lastly....................  How lovely to be a dog?  end of a very, very busy day, chill out time courtesy of Weasel - what a cutie!

Monday, 31 October 2011


Yes, yes yes.... I really can't believe it myself, it seems that it was only yesterday I was there making and creating the most amazing soaps with Mrs Barnes aka Shelley

Well, I am back again tomorrow for another fun filled, busy, busy 3 weeks where we launch PURO Soaps and really go for it!

We have already made a lot of soap ready for our first selling experiences but, most importantly, we will be hosting an exhibition of artisan soap making at the

Biblioteca/Library- Lagares da Beira
Largo Dr. Agostinho Antunes
Lagares da Beira, Portugal
Our Local lovely library - So masses of work to get this sorted before our launch night when the website goes live and PURO really lives!  
The soaps we have created are the best that both of us have ever made, our special PURO range of Olive Oil soaps are really something and our lovely 'fun' soaps will make Christmas bubble with a lovely scented, spicy selection of slightly mad, crazy and amazing soaps.  
Keep following this blog for the next three weeks of fantastic adventure and excitement.  I can't wait!

Monday, 24 October 2011


Yes and my new soaps are all up on the website now, click on the link to the right of this blog to go and have a look.  All of the soaps from last year have been altered and some look quite different, I also have two new cupcakes on offer and one new soap that I am very, very proud of.......
'FOLLOW THE STAR' - My first art landscape soap and my interpretation of the story of the three wise men and their journey to take their gifts to the new baby Jesus.  Scented with frankincense and myrrh and studded with gold chunks it both looks and smells great, a real unisex soap and very luxurious too.

SNOWBERRY - slightly altered from last year, a little stronger scent and ice blue balls as well as white ones, drenched in fine crystal glitter it is very, very pretty.

CHRISTMAS SPICE CAKE - A real favorite and my best selling Christmas soap, again, totally re-vamped with beautiful hand cut and decorated tops using holly leaves and berries, it smells really great, just like an old fashioned Christmas.

CHRISTMAS TREE CUPCAKES - Really lovely and very different from last year, more spice added to the scent, darker blue/green swirls that go on forever, I have also added pretty metallic multicolored balls to mimic real Christmas Tree decorations, all topped off with a gold star.

NEW GINGERBREAD MEN CUPCAKES - I had to make this one, I got a cute new tiny gingerbread man cutter and this cupcake just happened!  Scented with a wonderful ginger cake fragrance with added decorations it will be a real winner with the kids.

NEW WILDBERRY CUPCAKES - Another beautiful new cupcake that I think is set to become a classic.  It is scented with wonderful zingy cranberry, wild berry and a touch of citrus with amazingly realistic, hand made soap berries scattered all over the top.


THE NOW FAMOUS NATURALLY MADE SOAPS MINCE PIE SOAPS - They are back, not ready for dispatch until the beginning of November but kept at the same price as last year they made the best, funniest, wonderfully inventive and totally original stocking fillers.

Tell all your friends, most of these soaps are limited editions and will not stay around for long.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


I know I am very late but I wanted to share this wonderful video link with you.  I learned to use computers on a Mackintosh, and have loved Macs and everything Apple ever since.  As a Mac user of 26 years I am in awe of the man who created these wonderful, easy to use, beautifully designed machines that have changed all our lives.

This video at Stamford University, USA is incredible, so inspiring.  Steve Jobs was an innovator who changed the world just listen as he talks about how nearly dying taught him to live.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
- Steve Jobs

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle." -Steve Jobs
 R.I.P. Steve Jobs-1955-2011
 "You've got to find what you love" 
 One of the comments from You Tube
Ten years ago, we had Johnny Cash, David Hope, and Steve Jobs.
Now we have no Cash, no Hope, and no Jobs.

(not totally true I believe, but funny all the same)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


Yes, busy, busy, busy little Soapchick has been making like crazy.  I have some lovely new ideas for Christmas soaps, some already made and some in the making.  I want to share them with you today, some are on the curing racks already and will be ready for order really soon.

Re-vamped Christmas Spice Cake for 2011
Christmas Spice Cake is an annual favourite, each year I redesign it and try to make it better and better.  This year I have gone for the holly and berry look on top, swirls of lovely creamy soap laden with cinamon, nutmeg, cranberry and clove scents.  It is a real winner and I think that this years version is the best ever!

Christmas Berry cupcakes
Now these really are lovely, the base is scented with a mixture of wild berry and tangy cranberry, very Christmassy, the tops are decorated with mixed berries, and lovely indigo glitter. Another one that I don't have a name for yet, so if you can help I would love to know what you think?

Gingerbread Cupcakes
I recently fell in love with a new, tiny gingerbread man cutter and I had to get it.  So..... naturally this means a new cupcake is born!  this one has a fantastic ginger cake fragrance, so spicy and lovely.  Some of the cupcakes have a candy cane on the opposite side, some a gold star, everything made out of soap of course! I need a name for this little beauty, can you help?

"Follow The Star" Limited edition
I am so excited by this soap, the idea came while I was sleeping - I know it sounds crazy but I dreamed this soap!

I wanted to make a real scene in soap, my interpretation of the Christmas message.  The fragrance started me off, frankincense and Myrrh, a beautiful, warm, rich scent, and what else did the wise men bring?  Gold of course, I wanted a star and glitter too.  This is the result, a desert night (it will get darker, the sky I mean, as the fragrance ages to a much darker colour), the sand dunes peeling off into the distance, a wild, glittery, magical sky and a huge, pure white star to follow.  The soap looks equally good straight out of the mold or cut up into bars (as above) I think, I really wanted the scene to show up well and tell the story of Christmas in soap, I think it does and I hope you do too, please let me know.

Before the final cut, straight out of the mold as an extra large bar and before the gold 'chunks' were coloured up.

Christmas Tree Cupcakes
and finally, another re-vamp of a favorite from last year.  I have make these cupcakes again as I have already had lots of orders in, but, as always, I have made them slightly different this year.  I hope you wont be disappointed.  The scent is the same lovely mixture of Christmas spices as the cake at the top of this blog, cinnamon, clove, cranberry and nutmeg.

Remember you will always see and hear about my new soaps first on this blog and by following my facebook page, Please do let me know what you think, I love comments!!!

Friday, 30 September 2011


Not actually today, I brought them a while ago when the new Spurious Crafts Folksy site went live.

The maker, Peter Jeffs, is my last boss, a bit strange I know, but he left our local council around the same time as I left my Arts Officer job.   He was one of the Directors and one of the 'Good  Guys'.  Interestingly, while Peter was always very supportive of the work I did as a passionate Arts Officer and Play person, I knew he really "got it" (and most don't in my experience), I had no idea he was also a very competent and interesting artist in his own right.  Funny the things you find out outside the workplace.

As most of you know, I am now a full time soap maker and very happy to be so, however, it is still scary as my two-day-a-week job was my bill payer and I am now struggling a bit to find the housekeeping each month.  Hey ho, thats the way it goes and I know things will improve.

Anyway, Peter has been making his quirky ceramic tribal (kind of) masks for a while and decided to put them on a dedicated site, I got the heads up email and went to look right away.  I fell in love!  I think they are lovely.

I love this Shaman, I know I should not say it but he is tiny and sweet, and I am in love!

I'm not totally sure of the backing boards he uses, sometimes I think they are not quite right, the Shaman is great but the next one, which I love, does not work on the board.

I think she (and it is a she) is beautiful, she has a really serene look
Apparently the hair is made from plants from the garden (I thought it was from a broom!).  I think I will take her off the backing board and see what she looks like then.  She is quite a bit larger than the Shaman, but has a lovely texture to her skin.  I am also not sure about the crystal on her forehead, its plastic and not right, also the pearl?  I would love to know what you all think.  Should I remove them or would that be wrong, or somehow in defiance of the artist and his creation?

Basically, I love them, do go and have a look at the Spurious Crafts Folksy site, it is great.  Also Spurious Crafts has a new facebook page so please check it out and 'like' if you do!

I think these pieces of art are very individual, you either like them or they leave you a bit non plussed.  I think they are great and am very happy with my present to myself!

Do let me know what you think, do you like them?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Last Day in Portugal (for a little while)

The last two weeks have been frenetic, frantic, fantastic and fun!! I have learnt how great it is to work with another soap maker and we really have had so many laughs along the way. It has been such hard work designing and making our wonderful new range together, but I do believe we have done it.  Long may it continue.  Our new range Puro has been growing and growing, we now are the proud owners of 3 beautiful, totally natural, exclusive Olive oil soaps, 4 fab new Christmas soaps and 8 really great fun soaps, all made using wonderful natural ingredients from our local region in the mountains of Portugal.  Along with actually making these lovely soaps we have created a new brand, new logo and labels as well as packaging, exhibition information. fabulous new display trugs (hand crafted and painted), website, new facebook page and some of the best marketing photographs I have ever seen. All (well almost all, a lot of thinking and talking has gone on first) in two weeks!!!............................

We think we have created some real stars

And the most wonderful displays

Just wait until you see them all cured and ready
Yes......................  we have had a disaster along the way, please meet MR F'UGLY

But then we have also had some very lovely successes..............  Please meet MISS PRETTY SPARKLE

All in all, the two weeks have been totally brilliant, I hope my Naturally Made Soaps customers have appreciated the skills of my lovely daughter Aimee, who has been doing my packing and posting while I have been away.  I will be back at the NMS helm on Friday with a few new ideas of my own, new Christmas soaps to be launched, October courses and generally lots of great things going on, watch this space - as they say.

Please do also keep watching our new Puro Facebook page as this is where you will see what we are planning and hopefully all come and share a new, exciting soap making venture.  If you are interested in stocking Puro soaps or want to find out more about our wholesale offers please keep following this blog, our new website will be launched soon and details will be shared on this site.

And lastly......  Because I have been working so hard with Shelley, I have not spent much time in the last two weeks at our lovely Quinta.  So this morning I went out and photographed it in the early sun, it is such a wonderful, peaceful place, just a stones throw from the village of Lagares da Beira and Paul and Shelleys place.  I hope you dont mind my final photo of this fantastic soap making journey coming from here.....

Quinta do Cobral - our lovely home
Dont worry, there will be lots more from both England and Portugal, keep watching this blog for the latest news.  Please do leave a comment, it would mean so much to Shelley and I to hear what you think of our new soaps and ideas.....  thanks in advance

Monday, 19 September 2011

Last post from Portugal for a while! - sorry Im late - My Week!

What a week, both Shelley and I are knackered, walking and thinking, inventing, making, designing, inspiring all soap, soap, soap in our sleep!!   its crazy, the two of us working together has been a revelation - its fab, we just cant stop bouncing ideas and thought off each other!  We gave ourselves a day off on Sunday and spent it thinking about soap!

We have made such lovely things since our disaster (see previous post and F'ugly) -4 huge Christmas batches and 8 new fun soaps as well as our market leader and best Olive oil soap ever - Puro.

Our new, beautiful Christmas soap with berries,  nuts and figs

White Chocolate and Strawberry Gateaux
So, part of this trip was to discover new sources for our soap making, we want to create soaps that are made using the most local ingredients possible and one of our essential ingredients is fresh goats milk, it makes the best ever soap - see previous blog about why I use fantastic fresh goats milk

Shelley had found some great local contacts but it seems, they could not supply us on a regular basis, then the barman  and general village oracle Artur told Shelley about another goat farm not too far from our village, gave us directions and we went.  Found a really lovely Portuguese goat farm, all goats, they looked lovely, really well looked after with free access to a nice pasture, day and night (very rare) and very pretty.

Really nice night time forage and protection

the very cool and matsterfull Billy

Soo lovely
We found the farm, turned up amid lovely little kittens, dogs not chained up but lovely and friendly, cant tell you how unusual this is in Portugal, We were met by a nice lady who took us to the house, where the previously ordered 10 litres of lovely creamy milk were waiting for us in the fridge.  It was such a fab visit, Shelley and I were so pleased to be buying from such a wonderful place where they really loved and looked after their goats, it was so obvious.

Everyday goats bells for when they forage far from home

Such a fantastic selection, the really big goats bells right down to the little babies

The really special ceremonial bells used during village parades - these are huge!
The milk was fantastic, really clean and fresh and so very creamy, lets hope Puro can maintain this supply.

We have also been working on our new display, driven a little by Naturally Made Soaps we decided to go for fabulous, handmade wooden trug style display boxes, coloured in a fantastic aray of tints that would show off our soaps to their best, as well as a smaller, more subtle set to display our exclusive Puro soaps.

Bare naked pile of our fab Puro trugs

Beginnings of colour, just wait until you see them all done!

Painting hard, - Mrs Barnes
Me busy making soap

Oh, woops, just forgot to show you my office window, please dont feel too sorry for us both!

Our new range PURO is not yet available, we have been working on our exhibition display only, however, if you are interested, and they are fabulous, keep watching our new facebook site, we are soon to launch our website too, you will not be disappointed. We will soon be launching our wholesale prices.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Portugal, soap and lots more!

Hi, I did promise I would blog about the soap we are making, rather than other things.  Well, we had a bit of a disaster - so I was reluctant, but then got to thinking, well hell, these are the things that help soap makers gain experience and ideas as well as growing in confidence about their ability to control what is a very difficult science!!.....................................

Now, those of you who make soap will know exactly what I am talking about, those who dont, just enjoy!  As you know, from the last post, we picked up our olive oil (150L) from our local co-operative, we took his old oil, suitable for soap making, not the years best virgin (which is not that great for soap making, its lovely to use in the kitchen but tends to be very green in colour, and really is not worth spending the additional £'s on)

So, we used our first recipe and decided to make our first joint bar of Puro soap, a really lovely castile recipe that uses lots of lovely essential oils, no fragrance oils, Coconut oil as well as cocoa butter, castor oil and beeswax.  Well it should have been a doddle, apart from the fact that Shelley and I really had not made soap on this scale together before, not a problem, we are both pretty experienced, then, as I use Brambleberrys iphone soap calc. (which is only in oz) and Shell uses the proper and more modern grams and kilos - Nightmare!!
Just trying to sync the recipes/lye/liquid amounts/fragrances was a mind bender.  We did it though and mixed up our first batch, added the essential oils and mixed.........................  THEN PANIC, it started to move so fast, we had to rush to mix, no chance of using the blender, pushing it into the mold and trying to whip up the tops into something that looked vaguely nice.  It got so hot, the centre of the soap seemed to turn black, but as it started to cool, it looked a bit better.

Lots of soul searching, what had we done wrong? the oil did smell a bit weird but could that be the problem? the beeswax was very, very local and a bit smelly to start with, Shelley did a great job filtering it and it looked fine, if a bit dark, could that be the problem? Could we have got the recipe totally wrong, bearing in mind we were both used to using different units of measurement?  Well, that night, heads were whizzing with ideas and a very broken night of sleep was had by both.  Next day did look better, at least worth cutting.

Next day - we jointly decided it could have only been the beeswax or olive oil after sychronising our recipes once again.  the soap looked a lot better, its seemed to have evened out in colour, if a bit darker than normal.  So this time, we mixed 3 of the different olive oils we got, they were different colours and some smelt a bit like engine oil! to see if that helped, we also decided to do without the beeswax completely, deciding that was the problem.....................ARGHHHHHHH YOU DONT EVEN WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!  it was about 10 times worse that the last batch.  We managed to get it in the mold just, then it got soooo hot, almost went totally dark brown, like jelly, started oooozing horrid little oily patches, generally the most F'ugly soap ever on this planet, and the worst that either of us had ever done before!!!! Take a look and see what it was like the day after..........

Greasy, slimy little F'ugly
Ready for disposal, asap.  Now I really dont want you to think we have not had a lot of laughs too, it has been brilliant, I am sooooooo loving making soap, planning, thinking, chatting, designing, weighing, buying and generally doing all soap stuff with someone else, and I would not want to do it with anyone else, Shelley is brill, a really experienced maker who brings whole new dimension to my soap making.  She is much better at accuracy and recording that I am, and I need that, so we are good together, its so good to make soap with someone who loves music, having a laugh, chatting, and, best of all, the odd beer/wine o'clock at the end of a busy, hot working day!

Making trugs yesterday was a perfect example, we both just got on a roll, it was so hot, we were using power tools, sanders and making lots of dust and mess, then this happened.............

Shell just started laughing, and we both fell about when I realised what she had done - spot the deliberate mistake, based on the one in the front?!!!

Well, today was brilliant, we made a perfect batch of Puro, after using better, normal olive oil (meaning it was definitely the old stuff from the press that was giving us the trouble - yet to decide what to do about this), two further batches of fun soap and our first Christmas soap, all perfect.  It has given us the kick we needed, we are good at making soap, we can do it and its still great fun.  See what you think?

Perfect trugs waiting for their handles
Just one last thing, after I got back yesterday and the horrors of the F'ugly - soon to be destroyed soap, I got a bottle of cold beer from the fridge and sat on our rock watching the mountains and the sun going down/moon coming up, noticed our cactus was flowering, thought about sky colours and new soap inspiration, everything gets better so fast!!!  That is the joy and beauty of Portugal........ 

The beautiful new moon coming up over the Serras

Soap layer inspiration?
Sorry, a very long blog, I hope I have kept you interested until the end?  Life here is good, its hot, beautiful, natural and very, very hard work but worth every minute.  Thanks for reading, do leave a comment if you feel like it?