Monday, April 20, 2015

Is It Spring Yet?



I love the New England snow here so much that in all my fifteen years of the cold season I have kicked against us getting a snow blower. I have always been out there at the first sign of snowfall with my shovel at hand. I wait through the fall with the eagerness and expectation of a child at Christmas time. I polish my snow shovel with olive oil to a gleam, and I finally put it away over the weekend but I think my love affair with the New England snowy winters maybe over.

Ordinarily, I relish making soap over the season of nip and bite. The lye goes out on the deck, and it's cooled before I even have time to make me a cuppa and line the molds. Production is much faster, smoother, and the workshop is just a great place to be. But this past winter has been brutal. It just never stopped. One day after the other. One 48 hours into the next. Weekdays or weekends. Just the same falling white, ice, wind and freezing rain. It made the news daily, and broke records across the state.

A yield in the basement wall. On the rainiest pour from the dark of winter skies I have ever experienced in my whole life. Outside, courting midnight with a yard brush, scooting the ponding slush of wet and freeze the full length of our front path to keep it from breaching the basement window sills. No wellingtons to wear my feet, I had to pull on my best black GAP knee high biker boots... and of all the things to reduce me to tears that night it was feeling my sodden socks ruffling the plush in-soles in the knowledge that come the morning my fave boots would forever be relegated to gardening work.

Though the night was a horrendous one, the water damage indoors wasn't much to write home about once it had all dried out. Oh, at the time we were ankle deep at the front door and it was a dreadful catch 22 situation. The room below needed towels, and a truckload of them at that. But it was no use attempting any kind of mop-out while the water was enjoying its new found freedom through the hairline crack in the foundation wall. My wet woolly hat was icy cold against my head, but I grinned like a Cheshire cat with every push of the brush past the dry of the mulched bed under the workshop window. In a weird way, the safety of the workshop kept me going. An hour and half later, it was all done with. The rain slackened off, and we spent most of the night mopping up and thanking our lucky stars.

I lost eighteen days of soaping all tolled. Sometimes the personal side of life has to take priority, and the knock on effect was many delayed soap batches as I gave the time needed to home and family. February's annual Manor Mania event almost didn't happen. But I made the decision to go ahead with it in March so everyone could still enjoy buying their faves at the silly prices they wait all year for. My Manor Maniacs have been fantastic, and have waited so patiently for their soaps through the curing delay. There's only four more batches on hold for the cure, and by the end of next week as April leaves us, the last of the Manor Mania follow-on soaps will have shipped and what has been an awful and trying time will all be behind me. It will be nice to move forward.

Though very late this year, Spring has finally sprung here in Springfield, MA and I've just had a wonderful weekend in the garden with some beautiful sun shining down. However bad things may be, there's comfort in knowing that nothing stays the same forever. The green shoots of the new season's life are upon us and you know what?... maybe there's something to be said for wearing knee high GAP biker boots while heeling on a spade in the soil.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Ohhhh Is For Olive

The olive tree has a commanding tenacity. No matter how harsh the winter, or burning dry the summer, it still grows strong and upright in stoic resolution to bring us a fruit renowned for its nourishment and salve. A very emollient oil, it has been used for thousands of years on the skin to calm, to cleanse and to moisturize.

The olive is very high in polyphenols. These are a broad class of antioxidants that include flavonoids and catechins, common also to red wine, chocolate, grape juice and tea. Antioxidants are useful in the aging process... they help slow it down.

But antioxidants also hold other qualities of importance to us. The phenols found in olive oil have an antifungal and antibacterial action. Phenols also prevent "Oxidative Stress", a highly oxidized environment within cells where there is an overflow of free radicals and a lack of antioxidant support. Oxidative Stress always leads to inflammation, a common aggravator in dermatitis and other similar skin conditions.

Olive oil is a great humectant. Attracting external moisture to the skin, it still allows normal function to take place such as shedding, sweating and sebum release. Olive oil doesn't clog pores, It is gentle, and hypoallergenic.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hand It Over

Taking time out for a manicure isn't just about relaxing in the salon and catching up on all the gossip with the girls. Looking after your hands is important, and the purpose of manicuring isn't only about improving the look and feel of your hands, fingers and nails, but also to cleanse and strengthen.

Manicuring hydrates and exfoliates the skin on your hands, and also the skin that surrounds the fingernails. Massaging the hands is great for unwinding and for melting away the stress of the day, but combined with gentle exfoliation it can work to slough off the old skin cell build up that often prevents full absorption of your moisturizing creams.

Hard skin, flaky skin, dry skin... all of this only serves to create a barrier, preventing much needed moisture from reaching the healthy young skin below. Trying to moisturize dead or dying skin cells is a losing battle. Creams and lotions settle on the surface, and that's about as far as it goes. Skin needs to be maintained if you want to avoid dryness, and the "weathering" problems often associated with it.

Regular hand exfoliation will maximize your moisturizing routine. There are many polishing products on the market specifically for this purpose, but a simple one can be made easily with a little olive oil and sugar. You can even warm the olive oil and add a little honey to really kick up the silky effect. Once rinsed, you'll notice a difference immediately in the condition of your skin.

Regular use of cream or lotion will keep hands moisturized, and again, try to take a few minutes to massage it in. This not only serves to relax and de-stress, but also helps to deliver the moisture where it's needed - into the skin.

Looking after the finger nails is also an important step in the manicure routine. Finger nails can be brittle, split or dry. And the cuticle area can be hard, often cracked and painful. A nice soak in warm water will soften them up, and a good cuticle balm or butter will deliver nourishment to where it's needed. This all serves to aid strength and growth.

All in all, there's more to a manicure than first meets the eye. It's not about striving for pretty hands... it's about maintaining hands. The prettiness naturally follows.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Music To Soap By - P.P. Arnold



We have rain coming in late this afternoon. Last thing I need when I'm soapmaking. I cool the lye out on the deck, and any rain, snow or wind means everything stops.

Full on panic, I was up at the crack of dawn to try beat the rain. This track is keeping me going today. I love P.P. Arnold. Yes, there goes that all too familiar percussion of mine. I am such a sucker for a half decent drum beat. And I don't mean the heavy rock stuff either. I love drums that build into something. The anthem type song that you just can't help yelling along to when it gets to the good bit.

This is the only video I could find of P.P. Arnold singing this. Have a guess of her age as she shimmies about in this knockout dress. Like... are you kidding me?

P.P. Arnold, late 1960's - Everything's Gonna Be Alright

Pause For Thought

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” -Milton Berle

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Mug Or The Soap


A good day's soapmaking is always measured by the mess left behind for the clean up. Oh, and the tea mugs. It wouldn't be a work day without an army of empty ones scattered about the workshop.

And office.

And packing room.

And... oh, every room you can imagine. Yes... it's a close call between which I love best - making soap or a cuppa. Please, don't ever make me choose!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Music To Soap By - Fun



It's been a hard winter here at The Manor.

Ohhhh, let me just wallow in a bit of self pity as I write that again. It's been a hard winter here at The Manor.

The winter storms here in the NorthEast have been relentless, and try as I may... I had to cave into it. I tried, I really tried to stay on top of things. In the end, I closed the office for a couple of weeks while I waited for the delivery times to be more predictable and also tend to the mounding snow from the skies and the plows.

My usual post-Holiday supply purchasing of bottles and jars, soaping oils and ingredients, and many other assorted shipments that my little soap business needs to keep it ticking over had to be postponed. Deliveries just couldn't be relied on as many states were having their own weather dilemmas, and my Manor Hall order boxes couldn't be left for mail collection. Manor Mania couldn't go ahead as it usually does each February. Curing times of soap were seriously messed with, and some soapmaking just couldn't get done.

It's the first day of Spring today. Manor Mania is on, and the orders have been pouring in. I'm still waiting for a few supply deliveries, as well as being behind on curing times. I've lost the whole of this morning to the water men, who have been here to do their repairs. Like... after all my years on earth I know this time will pass. Right now though... I just wanna keep my head in my hands for a few. But you can't, can you? You can't run a business and keep your head in your hands. You really do have to suck it up and carry on. And that's what I'm doing just as soon as the last drop of this cup of tea has hit the back of my throat.

On loop and blaring out of the workshop today is this one. It's a slow starter, but it builds into a great chant and will keep me going as I work late tonight and on through the whole weekend. The work men are gone, and the workshop door is finally open again. Sing it with me now... "If you're lost and alone, Or you're sinking like a stone... Carry on."

Fun, 2012 - Carry On