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Strange and scary times / Covid-19

At time of writing, the Isle of Man has two confirmed cases of Coronavirus / Covid-19. Social distancing is encouraged, as the best way to minimise the spread of the virus.

To be honest, social distancing looks a lot like normal life for me – staying at home, not seeing people, communicating via social media and text message. Not a problem. I’m an introvert, I like being at home, I like my own company. If anything, I’m more likely to suffer from the lack of alone time. I work from home anyway, so being stuck in the house does not prevent me from working.

I am massively worried about the ongoing economic effects of Covid-19. Everywhere I turn, there are people worrying about how they’ll make ends meet. The TT has been cancelled this year, and that’s a huge proportion of the Island’s income. Many visitors book their travel and accommodation a full year ahead, so the Island’s B&Bs and guesthouses would have already had lots of bookings in place – they’re all cancelled now. There is also the TT Homestay scheme, where homeowners can rent out spare bedrooms for the duration of the TT, which is a very welcome boost to people’s income. That’s all cancelled too. Whilst pubs, bars and restaurants haven’t officially been told to close, many are doing. Childminders are unable to take children, meaning their parents can’t work. Tradesmen can’t go into people’s homes. I was told yesterday that a local department store (what we’d consider “big” in Island terms) has laid off 20 staff. I just can’t even imagine how terrifying it must be to lose your job at a time like this. Everyone is just thinking “What on Earth are we going to do?”

I am in the fortunate, and possibly unique position of knowing exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to make soap. And when I’ve done that, and wrapped it, and labelled it, and sent it out to the shops who can get it to the people who need it, I’ll make some more. By coincidence, I had just taken delivery of a large order of ingredients, when the virus arrived in the UK, so when I’m worrying about my friends and family, I’ll make soap. When I’m concerned about our finances, I’ll make soap. When I’m scared, I’ll make soap. And when I’m thankful that I can, in some teeny, tiny way, do something that might help, I’ll make soap. It’s all I can think of to do.

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Shampoo Bar Considerations

Tins

I’m planning on introducing shampoo bars to my range, and I need your opinions on containers. Round or not round? Tin or re-useable plastic? Push-on lid, or screw cap?

Any other considerations? I’d be very grateful for your input, either in the comments below, or on the facebook thread.

Thanks!

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Shaving soap

Wet shave bowl

Normality is gradually returning, the kids will soon be back at school, and I can get busy making soap again. January is normally quiet, and I’m looking forward to testing new recipes, fragrances, and trying new products.

That strange twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, when you have no clue what day it is, and you’re subsisting on bizarre combinations of snack foods, actually ended up being quite productive, for me. In a sitting-down-and-not-moving-much sort of way. I started reading about shaving soap, and found an absolute goldmine of information, so spent a huge amount of time researching different ingredients, and the qualities they bring.

Old Spice Mug
Vintage Old Spice shaving mug

My experience of mens’ shaving accoutrements was quite limited. My dad used to have an Old Spice shaving mug like this one, and a brush, but mostly used an electric shaver. My grandad liked a wet shave every day, I remember him answering the door fully lathered up, but I don’t recall what else he used. Other shavers in my life over the years have used a can of shave gel and whatever branded multi-blade razor was available from the supermarket. My husband just lathers up whatever soap is in the bathroom, and shaves with that – currently my Enchanted Isle soap. Not really connoiseurs, any of them.

I knew that there are people out there who are really serious about the whole thing, collecting favourite brushes, bowls, mugs, etc, but really, I had absolutely no idea of the true scale of the thing, and how much time, effort, and consideration goes into it! Vintage razors, blade preferences, Silvertip badger hair brushes, straight razors… I’d never heard of a kamisori – a Japanese razor not intended for use by oneself but designed to be used by a barber to shave someone else. (It looks terrifying.)

Shaving brush and scuttle

Some like to lather up the soap in their hands, some directly on the face, others like to collect some soap on a brush and then lather it up in a scuttle: a special bowl or mug which keeps the lather warm, ready for multiple passes with the razor.  Of course, if you regularly shave your face, you’ll probably know all this, and have your own preferred tools and techniques, but to me, it’s all new, and quite fascinating!

I bought my husband some “fancy” shaving soap a while back, and I thought I’d go and lather it up, and see what it looked and felt like. I did that, and to be honest, I was underwhelmed, considering what I’d paid for it! So I went on YouTube, to see if I could find some reviews for this particular soap. Seriously, I never anticipated that one day I’d be searching for YouTube videos of men shaving. But I did find one, and the man got a really good lather from the same soap, but he spent aaaaaages swirling the brush round, lathering it up. I realised I’d been doing it wrong. I’m not sure I’d have the patience, to be honest. But then I used it to shave my legs, and, I can’t lie, they felt amazing afterwards!

Anyway, after my somewhat sedentary period of reading and researching (and finishing up the remaining snackery), I can’t wait to get started making shaving soap! I’ll be trialling a couple of recipes, and will take pics and compare when they’re ready.

Tell me about your shaving preferences? Extra points if you include pics of your favourite tools! Comment below, or head over to facebook and comment on the thread there.

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“You must have a machine to do that…”

Neatly wrapped soap bars

…is something I hear fairly often when I’m out at fairs and markets. Unfortunately, no, I don’t have a machine to do that. I wrap every bar myself, by hand. “But it’s so neat!” they say. Well, that’s because I’m weirdly obsessive about some things. I wish the rest of my life was this orderly.

Soap wrapping in progress

In all seriousness though, I wish I did have a machine to do this. Wrapping is one of the most boring and time-consuming parts of the job. But it’s arguably one of the most important, too. Because if it doesn’t look good, people won’t stop to look, and smell, and browse what’s available, and ask questions

But, boring as it is, it doesn’t take an awful lot of brain power, so I can listen to a podcast or something interesting or funny, and that passes the time quite nicely.

Incidentally, this is Manannan, my sea breeze scented soap – available to purchase HERE

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Royal Show 2019 and Other Soggy Adventures

Well, it’s Summer, apparently, but the weather has not been kind. Don’t get me wrong, we have had some lovely hot, sunny days, but just not when I’ve been trading outdoors.

During TT I traded at three outdoor events – it poured down at two of them. The third was so windy that I couldn’t put my canopy up, and traded just from a table top. A seagull swooped down and stole a bar of soap, and flew off with it.

I had a good day at the Southern Show, but when we went back for the second day, the wind had been busy overnight, and had blown the canopies over. We got it all back in order, and thankfully there was no damage, but I was soaked through to my skin by 9.30am. I went home.

Which brings me to the Royal Show, which was scheduled for Friday and Saturday (yesterday). The rain was very heavy and set in for the day, so the show was cancelled on Friday, but had improved enough that Saturday went ahead. It was lovely to see how many people got their wellies on and came out to support the event – and even a few who had come out without wellies! The field did get pretty muddy, but it wasn’t quite up to Glastonbury levels, and people just got on with it and enjoyed the day. As did the many dogs I saw – there were some spectacularly filthy ones!

I must offer my thanks to the show organisers, it can’t be easy putting on an event of that scale, even when everything runs smoothly, so I can’t begin to imagine what it must take to manage when the weather is so…. Uncooperative. (I won’t say “bad” – there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.) Thanks also to my fellow traders, both in the Isle of Man Farmers Market area, and further out in the field – there’s a real camaraderie that develops when you get to know the other traders, and it’s so nice to have friends nearby who’ll keep an eye o your stall when you have to leave to nip to the loo, or get a bacon bap. Thank you to my customers, lovely to see some familiar faces, and chat to some new ones. And finally, thanks to the volunteers helping direct the traffic leaving the field at the end of the day. They literally kept the vehicles moving when one after another (including me) got stuck in the mud. The two lads dived behind any vehicle that looked like it might be struggling, and gave it a good shove to keep it going.

Well done guys, awesome job.