It was probably a good thing I had decided to take most of winter and early spring off, because the ‘flu that hit us nearly three weeks ago almost killed me and I was incredibly grateful to not be juggling markets, or cancelling engagements while dying in bed.

The downside of this is the slight twitchiness I get when I look at my (mostly) empty calendar for October, and start wondering how to motivate myself without deadline-panic looming.

Amy was sick for nearly two weeks straight, and as week three ends, she’s still very low energy. Isaac is still coughing up a storm while swearing black and blue that HE’S NOT SICK and I AM FINE, which is nice, but school goes back on Monday and I really don’t want to have them send him home because he’s full of HACKING DEATH COUGH.

Evelyn, surprisingly enough, didn’t get too unwell. It’s shocking and amazing and I am so so so grateful for the fact she merely ran a vague fever for 14 days straight and grizzled a lot, but kept eating and demanding TV programs and didn’t even need a little bit of extra medical care. SO GRATEFUL for no hospital admissions.

It’s no secret that I am disabled. It’s also no secret that I don’t talk about it much anymore, or that you can only see it if you know me well enough to get to see inside my clothing for the braces and the painkillers, and the very careful system I have in place allowing me to (mostly) run my business without too much drama.

This doesn’t stop the government demanding I provide them with all of my medical records within 14 days to prove that my genetic degenerative incurable condition hasn’t magically become curable, fixable, and not coded into my DNA. But hey, who the fuck am I to disagree with them? I’ll just go take up buckets of time at the doctors office while I explain to a locum – because my doctor for the last 27 years has just JUST retired – all of my issues and ask him very nicely to write me a report.

And it’s not so bad for me – I have access to my medical records, and a doctor who can see me within a week of asking. I have a nasty diagnosis which precludes me working, if working doesn’t involve a nap each afternoon, a carer to relocate joints and help me out of chairs, someone to lift everything heavy for me ever, and the ability to lay down with my feet in the air the moment my blood pressure goes screwy and I throw up. Luckily working for myself allows these things, even if I am a bit twitchy about a lack of markets and the need to Make All Of The Things coupled with No Energy To Make Anything.

Of course, everyone knows the best way for the government to fix a fiscal problem is to skim from the bottom of the pile. (Hahahaha, guys. GUYS. You think I wouldn’t work a real job with benefits and regular money if I fucking could? I WOULD. SO FAST.)

So that’s where we’re at. It’s a bit insanity-making to be honest. I had a full medical review done in July ’15, so to have to provide all new paperwork over again is a bit rich, and frankly it’s a waste of both spoons and medicare, but apparently disabled voices don’t count when we point this stuff out.

Hashtag stressed.

On the flip side, soapmaking is going well, if we don’t count the death flu induced recovery period. Soapmaking is kind of the perfect job for me – slow, steady, and doesn’t require too much standing (honestly, it’s basically all paperwork anyway).

Patchouli Musk

In any case, I have another month before the serious summer markets start again and I use every single spoon ever to get through the crazy three months, before I go mad with inactivity over winter again. Tassie markets are slightly unbalanced that way.

Feast or famine, baby.

But that’s me. How are you, Internet?

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Blue ombre style soap. Mint and rosemary scented.

I’ve been developing an ombre technique for colouring soap, which you would have seen if you’re on Facebook, or Periscope. This is the blue soap, which was test #2, and I’m incredibly happy with it.

You can see me make the gold ombre soap (pictured at the bottom) here on Katch, if you like. These will be available online in another month or so, maybe longer if I get around to making a purple soap in the same style today. I want to launch them together, so we’ll just see how we go.

It’s Monday, which technically means it’s my day off, but in reality, I’m spending time checking all of my social media accounts, trying to force myself to eat something, and checking stock levels in preparation for the final two Mona Markets.

We’ve just finished week 8 of a 10 week market season with MoMa and I am tired, so very very tired. I’ve had other markets during that time too, so I’m on about my 14th market in 9 weeks. I wasn’t planning on writing here to complain, but my knees hurt, my stomach is trying to kill me (possibly I’ve developed a lactose intolerance, but I’m not certain, so off to the doctor I go), and I am pretty sure that once March is over my joints are going to stage an intervention and go on strike. Which might work for a week, but then we’re back at it again.

But MoMa, oh, it’s been fun, and interesting, and I’m hoping that the people who have bought my soap seek me out once the market season there finishes and continue to buy from me. I mean, it’s really nice soap, and we all need the little luxuries in life.

It’s a juggling act sometimes, with poor health and crappy joints. I’m napping a lot, and working odd hours, and spending all week prepping for a market and trying to make sure I eat enough, and sleep enough, and physio enough, and brace enough, that I can do a market on the weekend without falling apart. I suspect I’m running on adrenaline and painkillers, but there you go.

When disability runs smack bang into my need to be doing something, it means I get to work markets, but I never leave the house for anything else.

(Actually, I went out to welcome a friend to Tasmania the other night and realised that I hadn’t actually left the house for anything except markets and doctor’s appointments since January, so there you go.)

Thank god for good braces, tight jeans/leggings (they keep my hips in place), and the support of Frogpondsrock with driving/setting up/packing down, and Nat of course, who keeps the household running smoothly while I’m practically useless for anything involving errands or housework.

I wouldn’t change the work for the world of course – it’s gratifying to sell a product I’ve made with my own two hands and to know it makes people happy to use. Small happinesses are important.

In any case, this is pretty much just me checking in. I’m not dead. The change of season is making my mental health struggle a little, but I’m used to that. I’ll double my vitamin D and see how that goes. I’ll keep running on adrenaline and smiling lots, which isn’t hard, because I do genuinely enjoy talking to people at markets.

And hopefully my left knee stays together for a little while longer, because frankly, I rather rely on it.

Gold ombre style soap. Lemon Myrtle scented

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It’s an appealing thought. Take some relatively cheap ingredients, mix them together and in a certain way and BAM, low cost laundry butter.

The premise of the recipe is grated coconut oil soap with a 0% superfat, combined with hot water, borax, and washing soda. Mix them together, let sit until cool, and then stick blend until you’ve got a creamy emulsified soap “butter” for washing laundry. Add some essential oils at the end for smell and there you go.

Common knowledge was that this miracle butter only required 1TB in an entire load of washing. Reputed to clean everything, it was supposedly gentler on clothes and machines, and basically a miracle in disguise.

Laundry Butter

Laundry Butter

Of course I wanted to try the laundry butter myself, so I read a lot about it – both from the people who loved it and swore by it, and the people who didn’t.

I read A LOT.

I fall down Internet rabbit holes all the time and I like to research things, but despite what all the naysayers were saying, I felt I had to try it myself.

So I made some.

After a few weeks of using only laundry butter, I upped the amount we were using in the machine to 1c per load. It was … okay I guess.

But there was still occasionally a funky smell in the armpits of t-shirts, and stains didn’t seem to be coming out. Plus washing needed to be hung out immediately post-wash, otherwise the clothes smelled musty, quite quickly.

I wasn’t prepared to blame the butter though. We’d recently switched to a new machine and reviews weren’t glowing, but we pushed through.

The homemade butter was cheap you see, and we were getting the business off the ground still. One kid was still in nappies, and money at the checkout was tight.

Right there was the upside. Money was tight and not having to spend $20/month on detergent was a god-send.

I kept using the butter, adding in a soap stick stain remover when I had stubborn oil stains on clothes which needed shifting.

Look, I’m a soapmaker. I am frequently oil and mica covered. My clothes get grotty. I have three children and a husband. We garden. We play outside. We don’t live in a sterile environment and our clothes are part of that.

I wanted to love the laundry butter so much. I NEEDED to love the laundry butter, because I needed to believe it was working.

It was not working.

But I hung in there. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something I could change, or fix.

We switched to all warm washes, just in case. I added more butter to washes. I added eucalyptus essential oil to the rinse water whenever I remembered, to help.

It was only when I started having to use dishwashing liquid as a pre-wash stain treatment on oil-spotted shirts and yoga pants I finally saw the light. My home-made laundry butter was not working and I couldn’t pretend it was anymore.

I wanted to love the laundry butter, but I couldn’t anymore.

12 months of intense testing on a five person household and I couldn’t do it anymore.

I went out and bought proper laundry detergent instead. Super sensitive and unscented style, to cater for Nat and Evelyn, who both get contact dermatitis.

And 3 weeks after switching back to commercial detergent, I can safely say that my experiment was a giant failure.

Laundry butter did not work properly. I tried really hard to brainwash myself into believing it did. I have soft water. I did serious testing. But I cannot claim honestly that home made laundry butter or laundry powder actually gets clothes clean.

My clothes feel different since stopping the experiment.

Because the buildup in my clothes was a slow and gradual process, I didn’t notice it happening until I washed everything in commercial detergent and suddenly they felt different.

Water will clean clothes of most dirt. I brainwashed myself into believing that a little bit of coconut oil soap, borax, and washing soda was making a difference when it wasn’t.

So there it is.

12 months of testing over.

Laundry butter does not work, and as much as I wanted to love it, I can’t anymore.

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Streamlining things.

by Veronica on January 28, 2016

in Soapmaking

2016-01-24 10.34.13

The beauty of working for myself is when I find a better way to do things, I don’t have to mess around waiting for a superior to okay changes which make my life easier. Which frankly, is quite nice.

I’ve done a lot of markets in the last 12 months. I’ve learned a lot, tweaked my set up more than a few times, and created more things to sell.

But it’s too much. Too many types of soap, too much to keep up with, too many products.

So I’m streamlining things down.

Less choice at markets. Less scents. Less products.

2016-01-24 10.34.22

I was at Mona Market on Sunday, with a limited edition range of soaps. The fermentation theme of MoMa this year works perfectly with soap – it’s easy to add fermented products to soaps and make the soaps even more beautiful. Fresh Tasmanian goat’s milk I turned into yogurt. Beer. Whisky. Fancy soaps, with fancy ingredients, and fancy bubbles.

What I got out of MoMa is that sometimes, less choice is best. I took along 10 different types of soap, three hand creams, three bath salts, and a beard balm. It was the simplest set up I’ve ever done, and it worked. 30 minutes to set up. 10 minutes to pack down at the end of the day.

Streamlined perfection.

Of course it helps that we sold really well at MoMa, and went home with less than a third of the stock I took along, but still.

Sometimes less is more, and allowing the products to speak for themselves, while not being overwhelmed with choice, well that’s a beautiful thing.

Markets are hard work. Rewarding – very rewarding, but they’re work.

You have to leave home early, carry all your stock in, set up, sell things, pack down, carry all your stock out, then go home and unpack everything.

None of this is a problem if you’re taking along 10-15 utterly gorgeous types of soaps you love. But slowly, my market set up was getting unwieldy. Five huge boxes. Shelves. Little bits and pieces everywhere.

And then I’d sell soap and at the end of the day end up with four soaps here, three soaps there. Not quite enough left to create a perfect set up and keep it restocked, but too many (and too nice) to shuffle into the seconds bin, or cut down for samples.

Lonely soap, waiting for me to restock them, to recreate their perfection all over again.

Of course, I’m always going to have that problem. I’m always going to end up with 1-2 soaps left from a batch, while I wait for the next lot to cure.

But this is an easier problem if I’m not constantly trying to keep 80 types of Thing in stock.

Which is to say, we’re going smaller, not bigger.

And I’m good with that.

On the flip side, it means that the online shop becomes my smartest resource. What better way to sell soap than online, to you guys, who have been here since the beginning?

There’s beauty in having customers able to pick up a soap and smell it, to experience it, to love it.

There’s also beauty in online customers taking a chance on my descriptions. On buying with prettiness in mind. Of having to keep my photography skills on point to showcase just how good the soaps are. (They’re pretty good)

We’re in a state of flux right now, as I phase out some types of soap, and restock others.

But that’s okay.

Like I said – the benefit of being in business for myself, is that I get to do what works for me.

2016-01-24 10.34.07

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Phoning it in.

by Veronica on November 5, 2015

in Soapmaking

Sweet Pea and Goat's Milk Soap

Lemongrass and Goat's Milk Soap

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