My mother hates this photo, so now I'm taunting her with it.

My mother hates this photo of me (although she agrees Evelyn is adorable), so now I’m taunting her with it.

I took two of my slow release painkillers this morning, instead of staggering them morning and late afternoon. Normally I skip my late afternoon dose because they make it hard to sleep, but oh, the pain today, and the exhaustion. My ribs are sliding around under my skin like they’ve forgotten what they’re meant to be doing, and my knees ache and the bones slip slide slither around, not quite dislocating, but not feeling right either.

So I took two painkillers at once, hoping it would help – praying it would give me enough pain free time I could be motivated to do something, anything.

All of this would have been fine of course, but I’ve had some weird vague nausea, so maybe I didn’t eat as much as I should have today, which is probably why I felt my painkillers hit about 30 minutes after I finished eating dinner, approximately 10 hours after they were meant to start working.

This is why I’ve just finished hanging extra cold-defying blankets over all the windows (it’s meant to freeze overnight) and making a chocolate ripple cake with nutella cream, and maybe I’m about to go and cut the soap I made today. I’m maybe a little bit manic. However I am still in pain, so I’m not really sure what has been achieved.

Speaking of soap: the recipe today, ooooooh boy. I don’t quite remember it being this tricky last time I made it, but there I was, bashing down moulds and trying to poke all the air bubbles out as the soap set in front of my eyes. I tried to smooth it out, but there’s only so many abominations glitter can cover.

Cinnamon Vanilla soap

You can see the rapidly gelling centre (that’s the dark bit) and the weirdly textured top.

Luckily, the recipe is solid – one I’ve used a hundred times before – and the soap smells AMAZING (cinnamon vanilla), so provided it hasn’t separated in the centre, it should be presentable enough once I get it cut.

Soy wax I ordered arrived today. I seem to remember buying it with candles in mind, but I don’t seem to have bought any wicks, so maybe I was thinking of soap? I don’t know. I’m beginning to suspect our family’s tendency towards ADD did not actually skip me.

Anyway. Soy wax is beautiful because it’s actually 87% stearic acid, which means DUN DUN DAAAA, I can experiment with some beautiful high stearic shaving soaps, and maybe a cream soap or two. I steered well clear of pure stearic acid because it is, of course, derived from palm oil and I can’t very well be a palm oil free business if I sneak it in labelled differently.

Three new fragrance oils also showed up with the wax – again, I forgot the fragrance I intended to buy (French Pear – almost entirely sold out in three markets) and ended up with Grapefruit Lime (also sold out within a few markets, although I have some of the previous batch packaged in plastic still which is available online), Lavender Cucumber, which I must admit is my absolute favourite, and I can’t wait to make a few batches and debut it at markets, because the name sounds off putting, but it has to be the best scent. Sweet and slightly spicy, with cucumber notes and I don’t know, it’s just beautiful.

I also ordered 500ml of Cucumber Water, which is also divine, although strangely it arrived in 5 x 100ml bottles instead of one large one, which I’m sure cuts someone’s profit margins down somewhere along the line.

There’s a week until the anniversary of Nan’s death and I am alternately perfectly okay, and perfectly not okay, in equal measure. The weather is cold, our wood is running low (regular wood supplier has rather inconveniently taken himself off for a holiday in NSW, not that I can blame him) and I still don’t know if my attempts to repair the cracked fireplace has worked or not, as we can’t light the fire for another 24 hours. So, there’s that.

Death makes me scatty. Sadness makes me scatty. Painkillers which don’t kick in for too many hours make me scatty.

In any case, I made some soap, cooked a curry, and have managed to keep all my children fed, warm, clothed (sort of, Evelyn is a nudist in the making) and mostly entertained.

I’m going to call that a win for the next week.

Come on Spring.

{ 3 comments }

Stories and grieving.

by Veronica on June 16, 2015

in Grief

“Mummy! I need you to make me a bottle! And do my iPad! And read me a bedtime story.”

Evelyn’s bedtime routine doesn’t change much, but sometimes she wants a story and other times she doesn’t. She went through a stage of only wanting the same five books over and over again – new books were thrown at our faces in disgust until they ceased to seem new to her – until I was so tired of the same stories that I quit reading to her.

So I instituted a library policy. Now, every fortnight or so, I take Evelyn to the library and she helps me pick out eight new picture books.

Tonight, I had a full library bag of unread books and we spent a happy ten minutes snuggled, reading new books, while Isaac did his home reading and Amy searched high and low for the library book she was meant to be looking after.

It’s fraught in our house at the moment. Heidi – almost eight months old and bored with the cold weather and indoor training sessions – has taken to delicately stealing books from my lower book shelves and tearing them to shreds.

This is how I know that books make great firelighters, as I was unable to save both a Readers Digest Condensed Books volume which belonged to my grandmother, and a cookbook of supposedly Provincial French Cooking – although I remain dubious about using canned soups in proper meals.

It was a worrying few minutes as Amy wrung her hands exclaiming that she couldn’t possibly find the book she had lost and couldn’t I just do it for her? I finished with Evelyn, and Amy dragged me to her bedroom to “help” her.

I carefully put the bookshelves back in order, smoothing slightly gnawed pages and tucking books into shelves tightly in an attempt to foil the puppy, while I directed Amy to all the places the book was probably lost.

Making her bed, she discovered the lost book, and I discovered my Sara Douglass books, pulled out and tossed aside. Clearly the puppy is not a discerning book chewer – going for the cheap thrills, rather than the intricate world building Douglass provided, once upon a time.

Death is a tricky thing. Sara Douglass will forever live on in her words, her essays, the snippets of sentences will linger inside my head forever. But her chance to change the world any further is gone, torn away by death.

It’s June again, which of course means death is weighing heavily on my mind again. It’s been almost six years since Nan died, and the hole she left will never be full again. The wind whistles through it sometimes, when the days are cold, long, and dark.

I packed the books away again, remembering where each of them came from. My reduced library is cobbled together from my dead grandmother’s books, books I shamelessly stole from my mother when I moved out, books I bought for my children, myself, my husband.

Ninety percent of my bookshelves hold soap now, not books. There’s no room in my house for books. Under the weight of a business run out of my dining room, where can I find places for books? My shelves are filled with cured and curing soap, and the sight of them gives me pleasure also, a reminder of work done and completed, of potential, of love.

But I miss a houseful of books sometimes.

I institute reading times – the lower shelves remain book filled (I can’t have the soap below hip height because dust dogs children toddlers life) and a magnet for a bored angsty puppy who would really be happiest if I stopped teaching her to sit/drop/stay and instead let her chase chickens and cats all day.

And we go to the library, where I can wander in peace, surrounded by the sound of books and happiness.

People will always die, but their stories live on inside us.

There’s peace in that thought.

 

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A little bit discombobulated. Also, tired.

by Veronica on June 15, 2015

in Soapmaking

It’s just been four market weekends in a row. Count them. One, two, three, four. In a row.

I’m looking down the barrel of two free weekends to catch up on all the extras before we start again. This business is rewarding and exhausting and I’m sitting here, a wee bit see through and shattered, hoping that a stiff breeze doesn’t carry my rapidly stiffening body away before I’ve had time to catch up.

There comes a point after a market day when I just cannot talk anymore. Nathan will ask about my day and I slowly become more and more monosyllabic until I just cannot fathom the thought of talking anymore, of doing or being anything anymore. I sit there, in the car, like a lump.

The restorative powers of McDonands brought me back last night, and no, I will not be shamed for my choices of junk food after many many hours standing talking to people, selling soap.

Markets are a wonderful thing, but they’re an awfully large expenditure of energy, all at once. POOF, gone, there went my ability to speak and walk and not be exhausted for three days following them.

That said, it was an excellent month for me. Awareness of my business is growing, and I’m slowly developing a group of loyal followers, which is always a lovely thing.

I’m planning on spending a few days recuperating with netflix, cake, and home cooked soups, before I go back to work. The weather is cold and I need to manage my physical health carefully, so I can continue to do what I love.

In the meantime, I added the new range of Goat’s Milk Soaps to the online shop, available for purchase immediately.

Creamy Goat's Milk Soap French Pear and Goat's Milk Soap Goat's Milk and Black Raspberry soap

I would also like to move for hipsters to stop making so much “bone broth” because soup bones are getting astronomically expensive and really, I would like to make some stock (NOT BONE BROTH, damnit, IT IS STOCK. STOCK!) without breaking my bank account.

{ 3 comments }

Ennui and exhaustion. Markets, and soap.

by Veronica on May 30, 2015

in Life, Soapmaking

The packing hangs over my head, like some sort of spectre. It whispers at me. Why are you writing? There’s soap to pack. Real work to do.

Shhhhhh.

I have a market tomorrow. I will wake up at 6am and triple check my boxes to make sure they’re packed properly. I’ll ignore the dark and make tea, coffee, whatever it takes to wake up. I’ll get my family out of bed and rush us out of the house as the sun climbs over the hills, highlighting the cold in the air.

All I want to do is lay in bed and sleep, blissful sleep. Evelyn hasn’t been sleeping, keeping me awake until two, three, four am. She won’t sleep, can’t sleep. Her pattern is all fucked up and here I am, paying the price with days of no sleep. And then she wakes up at 7am, tired and crotchety, like a tiny little fluffy headed gremlin, grizzling and grumbling until I get out of bed (PUT PANTS ON MUMMY! YOU PUT PANTS ON RIGHT NOW) and settle her onto the couch with breakfast and warm milk and cartoons.

By that stage, there’s no point heading back to bed. I’m awake and there’s real work to do. Soap to make and pack, a business to run.

It’s okay though, because my new paper arrived and packing soap will be interesting until the novelty wears off.

Paper for packing

I get sick. I lose 5kg. I can’t muster up the energy to do anything. My skin breaks out and I get a coldsore, but shhhhhh, because soap needs packing and there is a market tomorrow.

I forced myself to make soap the other day, full of ennui and exhaustion, I printed out my recipe and began.

It didn’t take long to remember why I love this work, love this job. Soap is soothing. You follow the recipe, smashing science and art together, creating amazing things.

It’s the process. The making, the swirling, the setting to gel. Photographing, cutting, photographing again.

Red soap with gold mica, backlit

Red Soap with Gold Mica

The packing is my least favourite job, right after taking inventory and paperwork, but it’s soothing still. Always soothing. Cut, fold, wrap, sticker. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I enjoy markets, mostly. They’re hard work, but the payoff is lovely. Talking to people about soap, helping pick scents, making money – what’s not to love?

(The cold mornings, packing boxes, frost on the windscreen. Tired children, grumpy children. Packing up. Buy my soap so I don’t have to take it home, please fortheloveofgod.)

But my newest favourite person Moire has promised to bring my nephew down to visit at the market, so there will be highlights. Smooshy delicious baby.

I’m not sure I mentioned his birth here – my brother, David, and his partner, Moire, welcomed baby Ruarígh (Rory) into the world last month and I am besotted. He is absolutely divine and I spend all my time conspiring on how to get my hands on him more often.

Ruarigh

Ruarigh

Ruarigh and Evelyn

See, divine.

So I will pack soap, in readiness. I will attempt to force a nap on Evelyn today so she doesn’t treat this evening like naptime and stay awake all night (again).

And tomorrow, I will smile and sell soap, because I am good at it, and I love doing it.

Market is 10am-3pm at Howrah Recreation Centre if you’re in Tasmania and interested in coming along to say hi.

{ 5 comments }

When the winter winds come

by Veronica on May 25, 2015

in Life

Sometimes, it’s the simple things which make the largest impact on me. I was cold this morning. A long market yesterday and a weakened immune system conspired to see me catch the virus which has been winging its way through the school community. I crashed hard yesterday after I arrived home, my temperature spiking and my shoulders aching under the weight of their viral load.

I was cold this morning, and so I walked to the bathroom and filled up a hot water bottle directly from the tap. Simple movements. Remove the lid. Tip the cold water out. Run the tap. Curl up, warm now.

We didn’t have running water when I was a child. When I wanted a hot water bottle in the evening, you had to fill the kettle – fire heated when the fire was going, electric when it wasn’t – then fill the water bottle with boiling water, taking care not to scald your fingers. Wrap the bottle in a pillowcase to avoid burned toes.

Sometimes I don’t appreciate the privilege I have here, the power points, and the hot water which runs when I turn the tap on. Pipes which no longer freeze, and a fire which warms the entire house easily.

I know my children don’t appreciate it, but that’s okay too. Sometimes not knowing what you have to be grateful for is the biggest privilege out there.

It’s been cold here. The kind of cold which worms its way into your bones and takes up residence near your spine, sending shivers downwards periodically. The cold which settles, waiting for you to forget about the warmed water bottles and the fireplace, waiting to grow into an aching gnawing pain in your joints until you just want to move someplace it’s sunny year round, eating tropical fruits from the tanned stomach of your lover while the sand shifts under you both.

It’s been cold here, and I don’t deal with the cold very well. I huddle in the warm places, curled in on myself, waiting for my brain and hands to catch up with the ambient temperature of the house as it rises.

Our wood has been wet and lighting a fire is like coaxing orgasms out of a dead marriage. There’s so much work and then suddenly, flames! only then they’re dead again and you’re left cold and railing at the universe, contemplating throwing oil on the fire and waiting for everything to explode in your face.

I read an article earlier, about some insignificant fact. It was poorly written, and then the byline: This author has over 650 essays published in magazines. I really should start writing again. The cold kills my creativity. Any sparks I have are directed towards the fireplace in the hope that something small grows into something which can warm us all.

It’s almost June, which means winter is nearly here. I keep poking at my winter wounds to see how far they’ve healed. Does June hurt as much this year? How is your missing, Veronica? Does the wind still whistle cold and icy through the centremost point of your grief? Poke. Poke. Poke. How does it feel?

I’m too busy to wallow, too busy to indulge my missing, which sits like a tiny icicle in my heart. I watch my children and see my grandmother in their faces and know how much she would have enjoyed their tempers, their wrath, the tiny burning embers inside them which keeps them fighting and shouting long after anyone else would have burned out. Oh, how I admire their spirit in the face of chores and rules, even as I struggle to press them into some sort of respectable human shape.

It’s been cold here, and so I am curled up with my hot water bottle full of warm water, and hot tea, and warm snuggly children. We will count the days ahead as Winter rolls over us, leaving ice and fire in its wake. We will huddle while our breath hangs in the cold air, waiting for the warmth to return, because it always does.

Eventually, it will be Spring again and I will celebrate with tiny leaves and plants, and dreams of the things to come.

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