Thursday, 8 December 2016

Creative Crafters for Christmas: The Soap Mine

With Christmas just around the corner I thought it would be great to interview a number of creative crafters that can offer something unique at this time of year. This week I am delighted to feature Vicki and her company The Soap Mine.

The Soap Mine Logo

Hi. For those who don't know you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello!  My name is Vicki, and I make soap. I started as a hobbyist, over six years ago, and soon became obsessed. I now run a small business called The Soap Mine, selling handmade soap and related products. I live with my husband and two kids in the heart of glorious Snowdonia, in the small but quite well known village of Beddgelert. Living where we do we're surrounded by beautiful countryside, and we like little more than heading out to walk the hills with the kids, or in the summer spending lazy days down by the river. I  have a totally unrelated day job - I work part time in the village pre-school, teaching 2 and 3 year olds, and I'm secretary of our Village Hall committee.  In quieter moments, I like to read and I'm trying to teach myself to crochet, but those quiet moments are very few and far between!

Vicki's Colourful Handmade Soap

What sort of creative business do you run?

I make soap the traditional way, from scratch. I take the best oils and butters and combine them with sodium hydroxide (lye) to make beautiful, luxurious soaps which moisturise as much as they cleanse, and the design process - selecting fragrances, colours and patterns - is a very important aspect of the job.  Designing new lines provides a creative outlet that is  largely absent in other areas of my life, and is just one of the reasons I absolutely love what I do!  

When it got to the stage that I, my family and my friends all had more soap than they could ever use in their lifetime I decided it was time to start trying my hand at selling it and today The Soap Mine is going from strength to strength.

Vicki's Gorgeous Green Soap

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a go themselves?

Soapmaking is a fantastic hobby, and I'd urge anyone to give it a go. There are plenty of books, websites and FB pages/groups out there with a wealth of information for beginners.  You don't need any fancy equipment or ingredients to make your first batch of soap - olive oil and lard (or coconut oil if preferred) make perfectly serviceable soap when mixed with sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which you can buy in most DIY stores.  Just be sure to do your research beforehand, know what you're doing, and ALWAYS put safety first when using sodium hydroxide.  

Vicki's Purple Soap

How do you juggle creative work / life?

With difficulty at the moment!  My youngest won't be in school full-time until next September, and consequently my weekends and evenings are when I do the majority of my work.  I'm lucky to have a very supportive husband who takes on a massive chunk of the parenting duties when he's not working to allow me to grow the business. Come next September I'm hoping that I'll be able to reclaim a little bit of 'me' time in the evenings and find time for a bit of that reading that I'm missing at the moment.

Vicki's Black Soap

Where can we find you?

You can find me on Instagram here, Facebook here, Twitter here and my blog can be found here.

Dear Bear and Beany

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Liebster Award Tag!

Liebster Award Logo

Thank you to Jaymee who writes The Mum Diaries for our nomination for the Liebster award tag!

The Liebster award tag is awarded by bloggers to bloggers, so it is a lovely way to share the love. Jaymee has set me some questions to ask, and then all I need to do is create a new list of questions and to nominate some more bloggers!

1.       If you won the lottery what would you do?
      When I graduated from University I wanted to tour Europe. Sadly this dream has yet to become reality so it would be great to win the lottery and go travelling taking in geocaches and meeting people along the way.

2.       Describe your ideal house
      My ideal house is the cottage from the film The Holiday

3.       If you had to change careers, what would you do?
      What career? That has gone out the window! Probably travel writer as a career as long as my family could come too.

4.       What is your favourite music artist?
       I don't have a many music artists cover other people's work! I do love lyrics though for instance Take That's 'Shine' and Heather Small's 'Proud' are great but I'm not sure who originally wrote these.

5.       If you could go anywhere in the world for a holiday where would you go?
      My favourite place and one I've been to before is Canada

6.       Do you have any pets?
      Yes we have a lovely goldfish called Nemo

7.       Why did you start blogging?
       To remember the girls childhood

8.       What movie best fits your life?
      I'm tempted to opt for The Lion King as ...'it moves us all'.

9.       What was your favourite childrens tv programme?
       Blue Peter

10.   What is your best childhood memory?
       Watching for Father Christmas on Christmas Day and pretending he was travelling across the sky. Then going inside to greet him and have a mince pie.

I'm not going to nominate any bloggers but if you'd like to take part than consider yourself nominated. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Entertaining the Children this Christmas

Picture the scene vegetables boiling on a cooker top, the turkey cooking in the oven, the table set for the family and the little ones causing merry mayhem!

Mark Making Merriment

Well thanks to Lapland Mailroom help is at hand. So while you are busy doing the cooking you can be sure that your little one is being kept busy having fun at the table before dinner arrives with an activity pack and letter from the Big Man in Red (Santa).

The company have been sending out letters from Santa for 15 years and are just as excited this year as when they first started.

Personalising the Santa Letter

There are a total of 4 letters on offer and each one can be personalised from their questions set out for you. I opted for a letter complete with activity pack and a Baby's 1st Christmas for my daughters.

Santa Letter and Activity Pack

All of the letters are individually addressed and come with:
  • A Free Nice Child Certificate
  • Elf Yourself! activity sheet
  • Christmas Eve door hanger
  • Cut out and keep Christmas decoration
  • Colouring in Christmas card
  • Colouring in Santa Stop Here poster

The letters retail.from only £7.95. 

How are you aiming to keep your little ones entertained this Christmas?

Disclaimer: Santa kindly sent us two personalised letters and activity packs from Lapland Mailroom in return for a review.

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Girls' Seasonal Santa Sacks

One of the things I've been keen to do this Christmas is create something for the girls. I originally considered creating a stocking but you can only get so much in them right?! So what about a Santa sack? A Santa’s sack is much better for all those wonderful presents to be piled up in and no struggling to squeeze certain gifts in.

Santa Sack

So here is how I made my girls’ Santa sacks.

  • Sew two pieces of fabric together or alternatively buy an old pillow case
  • Using Dylon’s beautiful colourful dyes, dye the fabric pink or whatever colour you prefer and leave to dry.

Dye Fabric Pink
  • Write the words you want to appear on the sack on a piece of paper
  • Turn it round and trace over the words backwards on the paper fixed to the bondaweb. A light box or window with the light shining through can help with this.

Ironing Fabric to Bondaweb
  • Iron material on to the bondaweb
  • Cut out the letters
  • Peel off the paper leaving the bondaweb in tact
  • Iron letters on to the sack

Sewn Reindeer and Ribbon
  • Sew on the felt reindeer and their bow. I got mine from a magazine supplement but you could draw one or a similar festive shape like a Christmas present, polar bear or Christmas tree.
Drawstring Closure

  • Sew one side of the ribbon around the top of the sack and feed the rope around it before sewing the other side of the ribbon. This will make for a drawstring closure. 

Et voilĂ  a sack ready for all those presents that Santa brings.

Friday, 2 December 2016

I’m a Parent Get Me Out of Here!

This last fortnight has seen my poor family fighting bugs! No not of the creepy crawly kind but that of viruses that have led to sickness! 

A week ago the eldest got a temperature and couldn't keep food down for a little while then last night one by one my family fell sick around me. First baby, then hubby who I've never seen so ill and despite my efforts to try to separate the eldest from the bugs running riot throughout the house she succumbed to it too! Seeing your babies sick and feeling helpless to do anything I rang 111 for advice and they were very helpful. 

If you fall ill this winter make sure to drink plenty of water to flush it out of the system and get plenty of rest. I've CBeebies on for the girls and hubby is in bed. Don’t forget to look after yourself too if you are looking after poorly ones. I took myself out for a bit of fresh air earlier and did a little Christmas shopping. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Creative Crafters for Christmas: Cathryn and Chloe's Couture Creations

With Christmas just around the corner I thought it would be great to interview a number of creative crafters that can offer something unique at this time of year. This week I am delighted to feature Cathryn  from Cathryn and Chloe's Couture Creations.

Cathryn and Chloe's Couture Creations Logo featuring some of their work

Hi for those who don't know you could you please tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello my name is Cathryn Banks, I'm 36 years old happily married and have 3 beautiful children who are 17, 13 and 4 years old. My job and work life of 10 years as a nursery practitioner ground to a halt after having my youngest back in 2012 a few months after her birth I was suffering greatly with back pain and one morning I collapsed and couldn't feel my lower half of my body. After 2 emergency operations I had 2 discs removed from my spine as apparently they were pressing down on nerves, although I regained the feeling in my legs, I was still left with nerve damage and I'm now a chronic pain sufferer and rely on crutches and a wheelchair to aid my mobility. Due to all of this and the extensive medication I require I knew I would not be able to carry out any other form of teaching or indeed a normal job. So after months of boredom I began to experiments with crafts in order to occupy my mind etc.
I initially designed phones cases and when friends and family were asking me to make more for them I decided to take the plunge and become my own boss and set up a craft business from home. I began in January 21st 2014 and trialled my designs using advertising on social media then the popularity grew and I then began to extend. My range and open up an Etsy shop. Originally my eldest daughter helped me to make various items and we called the business Cathryn and Chloe's Couture Creations.
As I have good and bad days health wise I'm able to work around my own illness and still earn some money and be my own boss. For many months I felt quite upset and felt lonely as I couldn't return to a normal job where you get to spend time with other people, I really missed that interaction but it's amazing what a therapy it can be by creating and making new things. I also felt guilty about just my husband bringing in the main wage etc so the business has given me a purpose again.

Bespoke Phone Cases

What sort of creative business do you run? 

My business sells many different hand made products..Initially it was just Bespoke Phone cases, and tablet covers etc but over the past 3 years the range has evolved into products such as... Compact mirrors, Stationery, diary/planners, Wedding gifts and hair accessories plus home decor items such as frames and trinket boxes. All of my designs are one of a kind and never repeated, I like to describe my style as being a vintage style with a modern twist, I like to use lace, material and jewellery and brooches that can be up cycled and used as embellishments...I also love to used pearl beading and diamantĂ© rhinestones. My mission statement is ‘designed by me and inspired by you’ because unlike a lot of other similar businesses I actually work with the customer from start to finish and they get full input with colour and style choices right down to layout and what kind of embellishments they like, very often I have a lot of brides who request me to match and tie in with their theme, style and colours schemes.

Bespoke Hair Combs

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a go themselves?

My advice would be to believe in yourself and dreams. whole heartedly...dedicate a lot of time researching your product ideas and seek out who you are aiming to sell your product too...always be positive and don't expect overnight success, with any business do everything by the book, get yourself registered with HMRC from day 1....ensure you have sound payment methods that are safe and easy for your customers to use..Also write out policies for your customers to read. Eg...shipping cost and times, returns and exchange policies plus things like insurance etc....and the last piece of advice I would give is spend time getting your business and products seen....make sure your photographs of your products are clean and visually appealing with clear pricing, and always use a logo and watermark to prevent people from claiming your design and photo as their own...I've seen this happen so much recently on Facebook etc. Never be afraid to ring trading standards for advice on what you can and can't sell and always ensure you NEVER breech copyright on other company brands. With business you always get back what you put in so it's worth the hard work! Keep clear accounts again the HMRC have a fantastic website to help people with how and what they need to do...many people think they only need to register with them once they have sold a few products.....wrong! If you’re actively setting up a page or website with products you intend to sell and make a profit on then you MUST be registered with them as self employed so many people get this wrong and end up being fined or closed down.

Bespoke Couture Creations

Where can we find you?

You can find Cathryn and Chloes Couture Creations on Facebook and Etsy

Dear Bear and Beany

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Farewell November, Hello December!

I thought I’d end this month how I started my month off posts wise saying goodbye to the month of November before we welcome in December! It’s scary how fast this month has flown by and yes I know I'm repeating myself but it’s going sooo quickly that I've ended up questioning what we are hurtling towards?!

Mummy and her babies in a grassy field with the Hobbledehoo

Anyway back to the month of November which has seen us turn on the heating and wrapping up warm when out and about. Our trips have been fewer for sure due to the cold but we have managed a walk near a river and a wander round a small nearby series.  

Creative Cards Created by Moi

As I mentioned earlier in the month our walk has been made easier by the Hobbledehoo just one of the delightful products that I've had the joy of reviewing this month. Bubble bath, cards and books have also been delivered to the door and appeared in posts on my blog.

The Cover of the Delightful Book James and the Amazing Gift

One of these James and the Amazing Gift led to the first book interview on the blog.  Of course this wasn't the only interview to appear as my series Creative Crafters for Christmas has seen a number of different artisans appearing in my posts. I wish all of them well with their products and hope they all have a fantastic busy advent ahead of them. Hopefully they will have time to rest when it comes to Christmas Day with their loved ones though.

So that’s my November in a nutshell. Time to crack on with Christmas and finalising the shopping!