Mother’s Day Grief and Disability

by Veronica on May 10, 2015

in Grief, Life, Soapmaking

When I was ten years old, my mother had reconstructive knee surgery. I spent the next few weeks helping my father keep my little brother entertained, playing cards with my bed ridden mother, and helping my father with things around the house.

Mother’s Day that year, my mother and my grandmother got together and took me out for lunch, the three of us together.

I can still remember how special I felt, sitting there in the middle of the dining room with my two favourite women.

Then there was dessert. I watched, eyes wide, as another table ordered the blueberry dessert. One scoop of ice cream in the bottom of a parfait glass, covered in a mass of blueberries, and topped with whipped cream.

I wanted it. I wanted it so badly. Blueberries were a rare occurrence in my childhood. Overly expensive for a tiny amount, I rarely got them. I can remember how large the parfait glass looked when they delivered it to the table. A mess of whipped cream and what must of been nearly two handfuls of blueberries in syrup.

I remember that it was almost too much for me, that the three of us shared it in the end. I remember my mother’s face, that she could give me this, that sometimes, blueberries are enough to make up for weeks of her being in bed, going slowly insane with boredom.

Mother’s day is bittersweet for me. People assume because my mother is still alive I carry no grief on a day like today. But my mother and my grandmother together were two halves of a matriarchal whole which brought me up. Today, while my mother is still alive, my grandmother continues to be dead, and I miss her every day. She would have loved my children so, loved her newest grandson, three weeks old and cute as a button. She would have delighted in them.

But she is not here, and so my day is tinged with grief.

So while many mothers across the world are celebrating today, I’d like to take a moment to recognise all the motherless children, and the childless mothers. To everyone who is grieving today, I hope your day is gentle and with moments of peace.

I don’t write much when things are going well. I have limited energy, and I’m expending it all on getting my business off the ground and successful. People underestimate how much work it is, how much time and money gets sunk into a fledgling business.

My creativity has dwindled, caught in the change of seasons and masses of soap to package. My hands and heart are tired and I need to write more, write harder, remind myself that I am doing okay, that things will grow, that one day the business will pay for itself and more. One day I won’t count every penny and add up which bill to pay this week.

Starting a business is a long term plan, not a get rich quick scheme.

Working from home is a beautiful thing, mostly. On one hand, if my EDS is playing up, I can take a nap, work on social media, do label design, research, paperwork. On the other hand, it means I am always working. From the moment I turn on my computer at 7am, to when I switch it off at 11pm, I am constantly tweaking recipes, researching, writing lists, emailing suppliers, marketing.

I don’t stop working, ever.

EDS is an interesting beast, in that I can hold it at bay for a time with good painkillers, diet, vitamins, and adrenaline. But the gates only hold it so long and eventually, if I don’t practise a strict self care regime, I crash and end up spending a fortnight mired in brain fog, with pain the painkillers don’t touch.

So I harvest my energy. I spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of each action. Will this market be worth the four days I’ll be unable to function afterwards? Can I attend this birthday party? What about doing that other thing I want to do?

It’s a juggling act, and it never stops. Sometimes too, events show up at the end of a long month and I just have to say no, I cannot do it. I am too sick, too tired, too broken.

I’ve been making a lot of simple soaps lately, because my hands won’t hold the jugs to do multicoloured swirls. I’m taking pleasure in their simplicity and trying not to frustrate myself over my inabilities.

Simplicity is a beautiful thing. Simple soaps, simple plans, simple ideas.

It’s the small things which get you through the day.

I am looking at my curing shelves and I have lots of soap to package, samples to put together, soap to make. I’m behind on restocks, on marketing, on everything.

But that is life, and it will be okay.



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Sales, business, and writing.

by Veronica on March 8, 2015

in Soapmaking

We didn’t have a market this weekend, and my long suffering joints breathed a sigh of relief. I took less painkillers and I let the exhaustion creep in, just a little bit. We’ve been working hard, all of us, and it was time for a break. The nature of my particular disability means I can only push it so far before it begins to push back, and while I am more determined than smart sometimes, taking this weekend off was the smart thing to do.

I celebrated of course by making lots of soap, catching up on the work I’d been otherwise unable to do, due to markets, travelling, family time constraints. All of these things, and a few others.

My hands rebelled by cramping abominably as I tried to glop a perilously close to seizing soap into moulds on Friday night, and I was forced to switch to my left hand while my right hand contorted itself into some kind of claw outside of my control, while I swore and smoothed and tried to stop everything going to hell in a hand basket. The soap survived, but I walked away with a new appreciation for what my right hand can actually do in a pinch, and intricate layered soap with lots of parts needing stirring, scooping and smoothing may be getting beyond me.

Raspberry Layer Soap

But I don’t stop trying of course, chasing that holy grail with lots of colours and intricate swirls, even when I am left nursing my hand into submission with hot water and heat packs, painkillers and warmth in equal measure.

I try to tell myself it’s pain with a purpose, that lots of people suffer for their art, but I’m left unsure whether it’s worth it.

Blue Horizon Soap

Modified Tiger Stripe

In an attempt to celebrate a long weekend, I threw a sale over on the online shop, but I suspect everyone is feeling just as poor as we are, with the back to school levies following so closely on top of everything else. Still, we try, because we have no markets and an influx of bills has sent me scurrying to my calculator to set ourselves a Very Strict Budget.

One of my children asks me if we are rich now, because we have a business, and I laugh and laugh and laugh. If people knew the truth of it; how much time and money a fledgling business takes, they would never ever ask for anything. But there you go. And yet I still cannot stop myself lusting over new colours, or a bottle of essential oil, because Business Expenses are Important.

In any case, there’s a rather big sale happening, so if you wanted some soap for $5, and some even cheaper, you should go look, right after you finish here. I’ve promised on our Facebook page to throw in samples for everyone (the sample cupboard is looking a little bloated right now, please help me thin it down), so it’s a good way to get free random soap.

Whisky Soap fresh poured

We went out to Belgrove Distillery the other day, in a quest to find some very good whisky, to put into soap. Everyone remains a little baffled by my insistence on soaping with the Very Good Whisky, but if I wouldn’t drink the cheap stuff, why would I want to wash with it? So we bought some Very Good Whisky (see above, re: business expenses) and I boiled it down and added it to soap.

I can’t begin to describe how lush the lather is on the soap bits I tested, but it’s going to be gorgeous. Set to be sold at the Mud and Ink exhibition closing (whisky themed for World Whisky Appreciation Day, of course) by Jon Kudelka and Kim Foale, it should be a bit of fun.

Carnation Layers

I’ve been invited, and was delighted to accept a proposal by Kenna at Modern Soapmaking to be their newest contributor. Kenna is set to take her family across the USA in an old converted bus and couldn’t dedicate the time to Modern Soapmaking she would normally, so I’m filling the gap and smashing together two passions of mine all at once. Writing AND soap making? What could be better? I’m not really sure. Maybe free chocolate AND writing about soapmaking, but that’s another story.

You can read my first article here, but not before you go and buy soap here, okay? I need to pay my power bill, and the postage costs for the month, and somehow, the German Shepherd pup (very cute, very naughty, very intelligent) eats more than my three children put together. Puppies should come with warnings: WILL GROW TO EAT EVERYTHING.

Eh. I knew what I was in for.

Cranberry Pomegranate soap

Cranberry Pomegranate Cut

In summary, life is good, if busy and somewhat painful. I’m learning to manage the things I want to do against the things I am physically capable of – a balancing act every day.

Soap making remains an absolutely delightful way to spend my time – I mean, come on, have you seen my soaps? Have you smelled them? (You should, they’re great)


Business is good, if suffering slightly from the same ennui we’re all stricken with at this time of year. Growth is happening, and everything is a lot of fun.

How are you, Internet? Good I hope?

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Boxing Day Sales!

by Veronica on December 26, 2014

in Soapmaking

So, I have a question. It is a sponsored post if you’re writing it for your own business? Because I’m going to tell you all about the amazing products I am selling right now, but I’m not paying myself.

I’m probably overthinking this.


Boxing Day Sales.

We have a lot of soap in the house, and even more soap curing. My shelves are full of amazing soap, and I need to share them with people.

It’s also boxing day, which means BOXING DAY SALES.

At the moment, if you pop on over to our shop, we have a lot of soap selling for wholesale prices, as well as discounted Body Butter, Bath Salts, and lots and lots of lip balm.

As a final note, we’ve got a few extra Holiday Gift Boxes discounted. Please buy them. They’re taking up room on my shelves. They’re awesome, and the box is reusable.


Everything will be on sale until the 31st of December, and then it’s back to regular prices. What are you waiting for? Go buy soap!


Oatmeal Milk and Honey Soap

Buttermilk Bath Bar Soap

Spicy Christmas Soap

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Borneo by Rainforest Action Network

[pic source]

I don’t use palm oil.

I mean, firstly, there is the environmental impact. Dead orang-utans, deforestation, cruelty and a long list of other things turned me off the idea of using palm oil in soap long before I even started making my own.

Secondly, palm oil is kind of a hassle and when I hear soap makers complaining about having to melt the entire bucket of palm oil down and stir well before they use it, I’m glad my own personal ethics prevented me from even experimenting with palm oil in the early days.

But that’s the thing about ethics, they’re tricksy and they hold me to a far higher standard than any other person truly could.

Our entire business is based around the idea of making luxury soaps, along with bath and body products, and not using any palm derived ingredients along the way.

This was an easy point of difference to hold while I was only making soap. The alternatives to pure palm oil in soap are many and varied and creating a palm free recipe truly wasn’t difficult.

But lotions, man, lotions. Trying to work out how to make lotions without using anything palm derived has been a headache and a half.

Firstly, there’s emulsifying wax. The main kind – Emulsifying Wax NF, contains palm derived ingredients.

So our emulsifiers get tricky. I can buy olive derived emulsifier, but they tend to need more work to retain stability, as well as costing a good deal more, and requiring a higher percentage to work well.

If I combine two different types of emulsifiers (olive derived), with a palm free thickener (xantham gum, or carrageenan), a lotion base containing high stearic ingredients (cocoa butter and shea butter), and a little wax (beeswax, cadelilla wax, or macadamia wax), I can get a stable lotion.

But it’s more expensive than a cheap hand cream you buy from Kmart, or even a good hand lotion made using palm derived ingredients.

Even trickier, some of the ingredients we commonly think of as palm derived, such as Cetyl Palmitate and Sorbitan Palmitate, are the main ingredients in a stabiliser derived entirely from olives. The problem is the fatty acids were named after they were found in large amounts in palm oil. Olive oil can still be broken down to make Cetyl Palmitate and Sorbitan Palmitate, just in much lower quantities.

You can see my problem here, can’t you? Ingredients need to be queried over and over again with my suppliers and often times with their manufacturers. One of the most common preservatives on the market has an ingredient which may be palm derived, but it may also be synthetic and created in a lab. We’re still trying to work out which, and while we wait to hear from the manufacturers, I can’t buy or use the product.

The benefits add up of course, despite the amount of time I spent frantically googling, and emailing suppliers, I get to feel comfortable with all of my products.

I plan to start testing lotion recipes in the new year, using an entirely palm free recipe. When it eventually goes on sale (probably around September, to give time for effective challenge testing), the price won’t look like a bargain. I won’t have people exclaiming over how inexpensive my products are.

However, the point isn’t to make the cheapest skincare products available. The point is to make amazing products entirely palm free, so I can sleep at night.

Someone once said, “soapmakers are such a small percentage of people using palm oil to make products, I don’t see how us avoiding palm changes anything.”

And maybe it doesn’t. I am a very small maker in a world filled with Kmarts, and Coles-Myer groups, and no, I don’t always check my chocolate to make sure its palm free, so I might be a hypocrite.

I can however, take a stand in this one small thing, because I can’t feel good about the things I make if I know I’m using ingredients derived from palm.

It’s a complex issue and I really encourage you to do your own research on palm oil and what sustainable palm oil is (I haven’t been able to find any information on sustainable palm oil which convinces me to use it, although in other countries it can be quite different – I know the US has palm farms on US soil, so it may well be less awful to use palm there) and how everything is used.

In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to untangle the threads of what each ingredient is derived from, and making what I can.

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We’ve all heard the spiel. “If you can’t pronounce it, you shouldn’t be putting it on your body!”

The message is always the same. Chemicals are bad and natural is good. Natural is best. Natural is more important than anything.

It’s not true.

Before I started making all my own beauty products, I’d been trained the believe the hype too. The word natural has such strong connotations; we all look for it, consciously or subconsciously on our packaging.

A few weeks into beginning to learn to make soap, I researched lotion making. The messages were clear. “YOU MUST USE PRESERVATIVE.”

“But we don’t want to!” said the forums. “Aren’t there natural preservatives? Rosemary Oleoresin Extract? Vitamin E? SOMETHING?”

Nope. Vitamin E is an anti-oxidant, not a preservative and while Rosemary Oleoresin Extract may protect your products for a short period, it’s merely due to the preservatives used to keep the ROE stable.

Preservatives are not the devil.

When I list my ingredients on my soap labels, I list common names. The law allows for that in soapmaking and I figure I’m not going to confuse anyone by calling something Olive Oil instead of Olea Europaea Fruit Oil, or Rice Bran Oil instead of Oryza Sativa Bran Oil, let alone using the terms Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit (Shea Butter), Cera alba (Beeswax), or Ricinus Communis Seed Oil (Castor Oil).

You can see very quickly that the idea of “if you can’t pronounce it, don’t use it” doesn’t stand up very long when you’re talking about using INCI names.

INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is the standard in a lot of countries for cosmetic labelling. I’m allowed to list common names here in Australia, but when it comes to things like preservatives, listing the INCI is safer.

So something we can buy at a soaping supply store called “Germall Plus”, which has a common name sounding rather important to the safety of the product you’re buying, suddenly becomes Propylene Glycol (and) Diazolidinyl Urea (and) Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate.

It’s a necessary thing, to include a broad spectrum preservative in products containing water, such as lotions, moisturisers, toners, shampoos, conditioners, hand creams – the list goes on.

Soap is a less complicated product because the high pH kills anything bad. Lip balms and other anhydrous (oil only) products are safe too without a preservative. But water containing products are not.

Lotion makers have to content with mould, fungus, and bacteria. A good preservative stops all of those things.

Tell me, why wouldn’t you want to be protected from that? I’m sure as hell not going to be putting a lotion anywhere near my body if it doesn’t contain a preservative somewhere.

Far from the idea of “chemicals will cause you harm” – it’s the very lack of chemicals which would cause you harm in this case.

And I’ve seen it done. Lotions being bandied about as preservative free and all natural and the absolute best for your body.

I searched their entire site waiting for them to tell me they were joking like hahahaha, here’s the preservative, you’re all safe.


Either they were lying on their marketing (bad) or they were selling a product which was unsafe to their customers (worse).

As I research more and more, it becomes clearer than chemicals are not a bad thing when it comes to beauty products. After all, when you break it down, lots of completely natural things like Atropa belladonna will kill you dead, which isn’t unexpected for a plant with the common name Deadly Nightshade, but maybe it’s less expected if someone is listing INCI names.

Atropa Belladonna is rather easy to pronounce don’t you think?

So when you eventually see long and complicated ingredient lists on my products, keep in mind they’re there to protect you, not cause you harm.

Next time I’ll talk about some of the benefits chemicals bring to products like shampoo and conditioner, or skincare products.

Remember – everything is made of chemicals. Even natural things.

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