Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

Well, it's the last few hours of the year and I'm down to the wire. The month of December has been a very inspiring month for me, to say the least. Much as I would have enjoyed to take our usual break behind the scenes, there has been too much happening.

I'm working tomorrow, and it'll be a joy. I do intend a real early start though, so I can finish by noon. For now, I'm taking a couple of hours family time with what's left of the day.

Thank you for helping to make my year such a blessed one. I wish you all the very best, and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reveal The Real In You

The value of facial exfoliating is often underestimated, and many never consider to include it in their skin care routine.

Old skin cells are shed easily when we are young, but as we age this process slows down, causing dead skin cells to build up on the outer layer of the skin. This is often the cause behind a dull and lifeless complexion.

Exfoliating the face helps to remove the layer of dead skin cells, and as the old is gently buffed away from the outer surface, the new skin cells underneath are exposed revealing a brighter, fresher complexion. This new layer of skin readily accepts moisture, and regular facial exfoliating increases the absorption of your moisturizing skin care routine, which over time can reduce the appearance of the fine lines and wrinkles.

Facial exfoliation is only needed once or twice a week. It increases blood circulation, and will bring a glow to your face. It helps with clogged pores, and breakouts, and also helps maintain the balance of excessive oil. It removes toxins, and stimulates skin cell renewal. The benefits of facial exfoliation are many, and it could be the missing link if your skin care routine is lacking in luster.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

More Than a Number

We made 25 followers today on the Facebook page. That means we're not a number anymore. Manor Hall Soap on Facebook can now be found easily at:

Thank you to everyone who is following. Please remember to invite your friends!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Music To Soap By - Slade

I was there for this one. I remember it being released. Course, I was waiting for its release cos this was my fave band during my teenage years. OMG... I played this one so loud my bedroom windows vibrated. I made myself hoarse screaming out the chorus.... and my poor dad made himself hoarse yelling at me from the bottom of the stairs to turn it down!

That Christmas was memorable for me. 1973, the year that saw gifts such as Chopper bicycles and the game of Mastermind on most childrens list in England - including my brother. For me, it was serious wow time, as I took the wrapping off a desperately longed for new record player.

OMG... it played three different speeds. 33, 45, and 78s. It was stereo, and even had two speakers that I could position around the room. And the piece de resistance I discovered by accident... that if I pulled the record stacking arm back, it played the one song on repeat F-O-R-E-V-E-R! One record of my choice, over and over again? It was hook, line and sinker for me right there and then, and I have never lost the love for playing songs like that.

The workshop door is open. The olive oil is in the pans. The music on repeat. Working or no, I am in the festive mood. Sing it loud, now.... "Merry Christmas Everybody!!!"

Slade, 1973 - Merry Christmas Everybody

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Late Great

Today has been great. Tonight was great. The customers were great. The staff were great. The store was great. Boston in the snow was great. Putting up my spotty dotty umbrella was great. It's 11:40pm. It's late. I feel... great.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Follow Me!

Oh, what a great morning it's been. While I've been cutting all the samples for tomorrow night, Jason's been activating the Facebook and Twitter pages. We're still working on the design, but for now, we are live.

You can "follow" and "Like" Manor Hall right from the sidebar to the right, or from the home page. If you're reading the blog from the web site, click here to go to the main blog page.

Now you can stay up to the minute with Manor Hall Soap on Twitter and Facebook. I'm looking forward to talking with you all!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Big Reveal

Some of your Manor Hall faves can now be found in the Whole Body Department at the Whole Foods Market Symphony Store, on Westland Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts.

I'm also going to be there in person on Monday evening between 5pm and 7pm for their "I'm a Local" event, to meet and greet customers and give away samples. If anyone lives close enough, I'd love to see you there. I couldn't have gotten this far over the last five years without you.

And if you do turn up, please tell me who you are so that I can thank you personally. I'm really looking forward to the night. I can't believe it. The biggest natural supermarket in the world. It's both exciting and frightening all in the one breath. My little Manor Hall in Whole Foods. It's such a dream come true.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My Welsh Bus

We have a saying in our family. It's one of the many I've brought to America with me from England. Although this one is from my many years of living in Wales. "It's like a Welsh bus. You don't see one for days, and then three turn up at once."

The Welsh bus has been a recurring theme over my last two weeks. The end of the year is always hectic. I close the office earlier than most, mainly because I don't want to chance orders that have been placed as Christmas gifts not arriving on time. I also re-open later than most, to allow me to focus on what needs to be done here behind the scenes. I try to run a tight ship, and I'm pretty hard on myself if I see any fraying of the main sail.

This year's two weeks end period has been demanding beyond belief. Looking back now, I can see that's been no bad thing. I don't think there was a single morning where I didn't wake up, and within two hours of the day's start I was Dorothy, and I'd been picked up and dumped down in a completely different day. It seemed like everything I'd waited for throughout the whole year suddenly decided to pay me a visit. Some things, I was like, "OMG, I'd forgotten about that?" Other things, it was like, "Oh... please no. Not now!"

And that brings me to Monday morning, the 13th of December... just five days ago. Though with what I've fit in to this past five days, it feels more like five weeks. The office closed on Sunday, the previous evening and I was looking forward to packing all the order boxes so that I could just sit down for two days and feel the calm. By 10am, the priorities for my two days of calm had all changed. Remember the chain store supermarket order I've been waiting on? That little bus I talked about, ready to leave the depot? Yeah, well, I'm no longer sitting at the bus stop. In fact, I'm on the bus, and it's already trundling down the road.

The order came in on Monday morning, and tonight as I sit here, at 10:30pm, 19 different Manor Hall products have already been delivered. The big reveal will come over the weekend, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, I leave you with a post about where it all started for me and my little Manor Hall.

See you tomorrow...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Night Time Bath Blend

With a blend of the best in salt crystals from around the world, forming an incredible union of soothers, soakers, and softeners, you can lay back and relax while the gentleness of jojoba, sweet almond oil, aloe and honey blanket and coddle your skin. All that's left for you to do is sprinkle... and breathe the day away.

lavender essential oil: promotes relaxation and restful sleep
roman chamomile essential oil: provides calm and serenity
aloe: calming and soothing on the skin
jojoba oil: hypoallergenic and skin softening

Packaged in an 8 oz PET bale jar, complete with wooden scoop inside.

Night Time Bath Blend is brand new and available now, along with two other aromatherapy bath blends. Come check them out!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Music To Soap By - Miranda Lambert

It's the soap pans this morning, and I have Barbara here again to do the wash-up. Silly dancing ahoy. I love it!

I don't usually soap so late in the year. Normally I close the office from around December 14th until the second week in January. This year may be different though. I think the natural chain store supermarket order might be arriving this week. The wait is absolutely killing me.

I'm blaring out this one today. It's got a great beat, and a pretty good hook. I love Miranda. Remember those good old school days? The ones with the "Pink Ladies" there to make you feel small? Yeah well... sing along with me, and enjoy having those days behind you...

Miranda Lambert, 2010 - Only Prettier

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Gift Options

Okay, I'm really stoked. The first four gift collections have been uploaded to the Gift Options page tonight. I still have the writeups to do, but I think the pictures tell a good story.

All the packaging I've chosen is eco-friendly. The paper packaging is recycled and the reusable zipper tote bags are 100% cotton. There are still a few more gifts to be uploaded. We'll be working on those tomorrow!

The Sun In Winter

It is believed that around 5,000 years ago (3,000 B.C.), in what is present day New Mexico and Arizona, the sunflower was domesticated into a single headed plant with varying seed colors including black, white, red and the familiar black and white striped. Yes... the sunflower was domesticated in North America. And it's the only crop harvested around the world for seed that can make that claim.

Way back when, the seeds of this plant were pounded into flour, cracked and eaten as snacks and mixed with other vegetables. And evidence indicates that other parts of the plant were used in the making of ointments for snakebites and other skin conditions. And the oil from the seed was actually squeezed for use on the hair and skin.

Sunflower oil is utilized widely today in cooking, but also as a carrier oil for massage. It is chemically stable and therefore excellent as a base for natural balms, lotions and creams. It is easily absorbed and contains skin-adoring vitamins A and D, and more vitamin E than any other vegetable oil. It also has calcium, iron, zinc and phosphorous, minerals which help nourish and revitalize, while the oil moisturizes, softens, heals and protects.

Organic sunflower oil is the base of my Manor Hall Lip Skippers Lip Balm, including the super-soothing Lip Skippers Mend Blend. Also made with calendula infused organic olive oil, this lip balm is ready to take on the harsh of the cold season. It's just what every pair of smackers needs this winter.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Snuff Said

With a comforting aromatherapy breathe-easy blend of eucalyptus and ylang ylang essential oils, it's the vapors time, and much needed relief is a welcome escape at any time during your snuffly day.

eucalyptus essential oil: gives breathing a breeze
ylang ylang essential oil: eases stress and promotes harmony

The fragrant foaming bath and body wash, creates soft and gentle sulfate free bubbles, to bathe your beautiful body in. Organic aloe juice, jojoba oil, and wonderful extracts of oat and white tea help soften and soothe, and all that's left for you to do is pour... and breathe the day away.

The fragrant aroma rollette rolls onto the skin with ease, releasing its wonderful aromatic essential oils into your world wherever you may be. Just roll onto your wrist, rub together, and breathe the day away.

Both are brand new for the cold and snuffly season, and available only at the Manor.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paraben Free Face Creme

This nourishing face creme is a rich blending of organic olive oil and organic aloe juice. It feels absolutely wonderful on your skin, gliding on with a velvet touch and absorbing with ease. Formulated to deliver deep moisture and nourishing hydration, it lends a helping hand to the suppleness of your skin, leaving behind an incredible feeling of softness.

Moisturising your skin is important whatever your skin type. Use day and night after cleansing and toning, with upward sweeps to the face and neck. When delivering care to your skin, always use a gentle touch on the face, with circular and upward movement.

88% organic, and paraben free.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music To Soap By - Cyndi Lauper

Ohhh... where has this last ten days gone? The Barbara leaves tomorrow, and I still feel like there's loads to get through. On the plus side, the workshop is organized like it's never known before.

I opened up this morning at 5.30am, and it was like... wow! Every shelf in there has something that belongs on it. There are drawers, tubs, plastic buckets, trays, little boxes, and even my shipping station has a place for everything.

It's been a great time. I've caught up on an awful lot of things. Two pairs of hands really do make light work. Even better when the extra hands belong to a real friend. I shall miss the Barbara when she goes home. I will be back to silly dancing alone. Today though, she's all mine. The music we're blaring out this morning lends itself nicely to some nifty footwork and head bopping. I must get myself some over the knee striped socks.

Whatever you're doing today, stay in the moment. Make the most of your surroundings and have a few laughs. Altogether now.... oh, girls just wanna have fun.

Cyndi Lauper, 1983 - Girls Just Want To Have Fun

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's in the Bag

It's Monday night and the overhaul of the gift page has begun.

I'm really revved up about this. The delivery arrived on Friday and we spent the weekend unpacking and sorting through carry bags of different sizes, gift tags, and some nice cerise tissue paper. All the packaging is really great, but I think the star of the show has to be the eco friendly canvas zipper tote. Brightly printed with big polka dots, it's made from 100% heavyweight cotton with a nicely sized pocket on the front. Handles are strong and long, and the first tote option will include a body wash, sugar scrub and aroma roll-on from the Signature Scent Collection.

The pic above is from the first photo shoot, and various gift options will soon be available. I'm so gonna to enjoy this week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Veterans Day Weekend Sale

It's Veterans Day on Thursday 11/11, and Manor Hall is celebrating with you all weekend long. Just type in the code "LOVEVETS" at checkout and you will receive 11% off of your order. Offer ends Sunday the 14th at midnight.

The cold season is already setting in and taking its toll on hands. As a bonus, all orders placed over the Veterans Day Weekend will receive an exclusive Manor Hall manicure pack. Treat yourself to samplings of these brand new hand pampering goodies! Ordering during the sale is a great way to try them out, while also getting your hands in tip top condition.

And, of course, don't forget the regular November order box freebies.

Wishing you all a happy and safe Veterans Day Weekend. And today, a special Happy 235th Birthday to the United States Marine Corps. A huge thank you to all who serve, and their families.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Aroma Roll-On - Twisted Lavender

With a signature Twisted Lavender blend of pure essential oils, this aroma rollette rolls onto the skin with ease, releasing its wonderful scent into your world wherever you may be. Just roll onto your wrist, rub together, and be Twisted Lavender all day.

• lavender essential oil: promotes relaxation and restful sleep
• ylang ylang essential oil: eases stress and promotes harmony
• lemon essential oil: brings cleansing freshness

With pure oil of lavender for soothing calm, and lemon oil for tang and zing, this relaxing yet stirring scent twists nicely with a kick of other essential oils including ylang. Scented only with essential oils.

Paraben free, phthalate free.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Spa Salt Experience

With family being my main rock for the next ten days, I think this is ideal time to bring you another informative beauty article from the pages of my eldest daughter. It's about pampering yourself during the cold months. I think its rather appropriate on this New England morning where despite the beautiful sunset last night, the sleet is raining down. Rooftops and ground are a mushy white. I think winter is saying its first hello.

You can find an introduction to Gayle, in an earlier post I made here, and of course, all her articles can be found under Natural Beauty on the blue sidebar of the website.

The Spa Salt Experience, by Gayle Whelan

With its cold days, biting winds, central heating and long nights in front of the fireplace, the winter is an ideal time to treat your skin to a simple spa experience, without leaving your home and without a hefty price tag. Taking some time to spoil yourself with natural bath salts and essential oils invigorates your senses, calms frayed nerves, and relaxes tense muscles. There is no time like the present to put yourself first.

Begin with a spa facial made with three tablespoons of honey, 1/3 cup ground oats and 2 teaspoons of peppermint tea. Apply in circular motions and leave for a few minutes before rinsing off. Your skin will be exfoliated and will look gorgeous and feel soft. Now it's time to start running your bath. Consider the temperature of your bath or shower as this can affect energy levels. A cool shower is very energizing, while a warm bath set at a few degrees above body temperature is relaxing while maximizing absorptions of nutrients. A hot bath, however is best with a few drops of lavender oil, and helps promote sleep.

While considering what to add to your bath for the ultimate relaxation, it is best to use only natural products. Mixing essential and aromatherapy oils with bath salts can result in beautiful aromas that enrobe you while offering a host of healing and relaxing properties.

Using Dead Sea salts in your bath is also an effective way to absorb the qualities of the minerals the Dead Sea is renowned for. Research has proven that the nutrients in these salts can help alleviate many skin conditions including psoriasis. Add two or three handfuls to your bath water to relax, rejuvenate and relieve muscle tension. Salt aids buoyancy, which helps take the load off the muscles.

A couple of cups of apple cider vinegar in your bath will help restore a natural pH to skin, as well as rejuvenating and building up the body's resistance. Cider vinegar combats unfriendly bacteria and is soothing to the skin, helping to alleviate itchiness, poison ivy, and sunburn.

For the ultimate spa experience, mix your Dead Sea salts with oils to create your own mood enhancers and stress relievers. Bath salts offer wonderful relief of stress symptoms by increasing circulation and encouraging detoxification of cells. They also moisturize the skin and enhance relaxation. Bathing close to bedtime may help you get a good night's sleep, which is necessary for regeneration of the body.

Whichever way you choose to indulge in the benefits of salt soaks and rubs, use a good natural moisturizer to help retain all the good nutrients your body has just absorbed. For best results, apply within two minutes of leaving the bath. Your spa experience should leave you relaxed and content, and able to face another day.

The Barbara

Superwoman has arrived!

She's sleeping now, but when she wakes I am so in for a workout like you wouldn't believe. The woman is like a whirlwind. Nothing stands in her path. She's like the dreaded time and motion man. No sooner have you got one thing done, then she's off seeking out the next task. She's relentless, like some superhero with laser sharp eyes that home in on work to be done. I am aching all over just thinking about it.

She's here for ten days.

She cleans. She tidies. She dusts. She sweeps. She vacuums. She clears out cupboards. She checks the dates on everything inside the fridge. She fluffs cushions. She picks up shoes. She does laundry. And that's only what she does when we get back into the house after a full day in the workshop!

All day long she makes my cups of tea. She makes sure I eat. She sterilizes my bottles and jars. She carries boxes of soap. She preps the work stations. She organizes the labels. She does the wash up. She wipes the soap bars. She puts things away. And just when you think you've finished and it's break time... she says, "Okay... what's next?", and she's off out of the trap like a greyhound.

I am exhausted before the day has begun.

But there's more to this darling wonderwoman. She's a rock. She's a heart of gold. She's a giggle machine. She's a steadier. She's an optimist. She's seen it all. She's never fazed. She's a hug when I'm over-whelmed. She's a reminder when I forget. She's a light on darker days.

She's a rare gem.

She's the Barbara. And she's the best mother-in-law evah!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunset Over Springfield

We've had a blustery day today. I think the last of the leaves have fallen. This was the evening sky outside tonight. It lasted for all of ten minutes, if that. But what a ten minutes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Have a Dream...

From being a kid, I've been a swimmer. I love the water. I swear I was a dolphin in a previous life.

The one thing I've always wanted to do is swim with dolphins. Another one is to own a wetsuit. And wait for it... can you believe that in ten years of being stateside, I've never been in American waters. Riding a horse in West Virginia with a cowboy hat on is another thing I have to do. Don't ask... I was brought up on cowboy films. I always wanted to be the hottest dead-eyed cowgirl ever. I have to go to Savannah... and I have to go to Charleston. I have to wear Scarlett's green drapes dress, and sashay across some dusty ground somewhere.

Oh... the list is endless. There are so many dreams I've held all these years. In August, I checked one of my dreams off the list. I bought the wetsuit. I also treated myself to a body board. Narragansett, Rhode Island, we headed for. Me and Jason, camera in tow. I couldn't have asked for better. It was a beautiful, warm summer evening. And I got to go into the water with my wetsuit and bodyboard, as day turned nearly into night. It was exhilarating. It was a dream come true.

I've been wanting to post the photos on the blog ever since, but have never gotten round to it. So, without further ado, here's me, and one dream checked off the list...

There's people on the beach, but as far as I'm concerned there's only me and my dream.

At this point, I really can't believe it's happening. Like I know I'm there, but it's still a bit unreal.

This is my spot. Just me and the water. It feels absolutely fantastic. And let me tell you, a wetsuit might keep the water out a bit, but you still get to feel the cold.

You know what? The American sea does not taste like the English sea. The sea in England is salty beyond belief. This was so lacking in salt, it tasted like freshwater to me.

Like, OMG... what a feeling of triumph. It's been many years in the waiting. Seriously, what an absolutely incredible feeling!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Today's Bounty

Another day of soap done. I thought I'd share some photos of the logs before today's cut. Bars are now on the shelf. They'll be ready for wrapping later this month. Enjoy the pics...

Ruby Moon

Sesame Ginger Me

Almost Sunset

Choccy Orange Kerfuffle

Hardy Har Harvest

Spearmint Grapefruit

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Music To Soap By - Dobie Gray

I'm never happier than when I'm soaping. It's an absolutely incredible feeling. It's like... freedom. It's like... I've made a break for it and I'm outta the door. It's like... it doesn't matter what's going on in the real world, I'm here in my own little world, and... I'm free.

I was feeling so great when I broke out the soaping clothes today, that in wondering what music I wanted to be spurring me on, I was taken right back to my teenage years. Yeah... we all had those. Least said soonest mended and all that. I think the one thing about growing up is that you can look back and be aware of what you put your parents through... with a full blown cringe. My poor mother. That's all I can say. You know... I still apologize to her regularly in our phone calls whenever the subject of children comes up. I don't think you can be sorry enough when you've put loved ones through hell. So, here's another apology while I'm on the subject... "OMG, Mum... I was a nightmare for you. I'm so sorry!"

So... in choosing my music this morning I remembered one particular song that used to cause me to feel so... hmm... what's the word to describe it... to feel so... resolved. Yes... that's the word I'm looking for. Resolved. But not just any common or garden feeling of resolve. No, this kind of being resolved brings with it an incredible feeling of, "I am running so free, nothing can catch me."

And that's how I was feeling this morning. Not a care in the world. Maybe. Sometimes, things get on top of you and you don't even know it. So I'm looking at that. For some reason this morning, I chose to soap with my old friend, Dobie. Maybe deep inside I just wanted to feel like nothing out there matters, and it brought to mind that old teenage resolve. You know the one I mean. Where you get the last word in and slam the back door behind you leaving your poor mother in tears. And what's more, you know you've left her in tears and you just don't care. You're gonna live your life how you want. After all... you're right. What do they know anyway?

Course... you can stamp your feet, and cover your ears saying to yourself, "Neh, neh... I can't hear you." You can do that all you want. But somewhere in your head you have heard, and you're really screaming out for it all to be sorted. You just don't want to be the one to back down, because... well, as a teenager, you're just too proud to admit you're an insensitive jerk.

You know what... I'm glad I'm grown up. I'd hate to be the age I am now, and still feel the same way that I did when I was a rebellious teen. And I'm glad I had the where-with-all to tell my mum years later that I was sorry for what I'd put her through. Moreover, I'm glad I could actually feel some real pain, embarrassment, and true discomfort for the way I'd been with her.

That's the backdrop to today's music. It was always an anthem that stopped common sense from taking over. Course, I'm all grown up now. I'm older. I'm wiser. I've had my kids. They're out in the wide world with their own life's events to grow from. It feels so great to hear the music, and be at a point in my life where its effect of drowning out the real world isn't needed. A point in my life where those days and my unforgivable insensitive behaviour are long long behind me. And you know what I've realized in dusting off this old song? I've realized that with no angst to feel while it's playing, the song is an absolute cracker of a song. I never fully appreciated that when I was young. I was too busy rebelling. OMG... what blinkers (blinders) I was wearing back then.

To rebels everywhere. To all those who are still on the journey of growing up. Whatever your age, may you hear this song without angst and feel true appreciation for the music. To everyone else... enjoy. It really is a get-up-and-go song.

Dobie Gray, 1966 - Out On The Floor

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sneak Peek

It's not a soap bar.

It's not a wax tart.

It's not a bath fizzy.

It's softening. It's smoothing. It's silking.

The middle of November. It's coming soon...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hands Up

To quote Jason, not too many minutes ago: "I think 10.00pm is a respectable time to finish." And so closes the workshop door for another day. The new product upload is well under way, and the new pages have started to appear. It's been a good weekend of work. Tomorrow starts another week... and also another month.

You'll notice an addition to the foot care page. Well... you'll probably notice first that the category name has changed. It now reads, "Manicure & Pedicure". Three new products to take care of your hands. A cuticle butter, with a blend of nourishing exotic butters, to give a helping hand to your nails and cutes. A smoothing hand polish, formulated with walnut powder, gentle aloe, and chamomile. And finally a beautiful rich hand creme, bringing you the moisturizing goodness of avocado oil and shea butter.

Full product descriptions will be following soon on the website, but for now... the new Manicure & Pedicure page on the site is ready to go. As am I. It's 10.00pm, and that means jarmies, drinking chocolate, some telly... and finally to bed for me.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


There's four seasons to the year, and every one of them is spaced equally on the calendar. Yet Fall always seems the shortest to me. Maybe it's because it's a long time coming.

August arrives and we know the leaves are going to start changing. Like, we still have the sun, but we're waiting for the smell of apples, nutmeg, pumpkin pie. We're waiting for the straw, the scarecrows, the golds, the reds and the browns. Then suddenly, it's all here. It's bright, it's colorful and... ohhhh, I wish it could last forever.

Blazing color is brief. The heat of summer has turned to cool and the cool grows cooler still. Accompanied by wind. And falling leaves. Fall is very pretty. And if it all lasted longer, we'd probably take it for granted. Enjoy the colors of this last week in New England. November is on its way.

Friday, October 29, 2010

On the Dotted Line

Friday night... and it's been a long week. A few ups, a few of the proverbial downs, and a few real good breakthroughs.

It's the website changeover this weekend, and the Signature Scents are finally here. I'm pretty excited about it. It's been a long time coming. It's something I've wanted to do from Day 1. As with many things, the idea might be great, but putting it into practice is something entirely different.

As Manor Hall grew, new products arrived. I've always been creative, and the vision for my products back then was what I've always described as an "art attack". Every store I went to would be filled with labels that were in line with other products. That wasn't me. It wasn't Manor Hall.

As the first two years went by, it was nice adding a new product to the line. It was nice doing a different label. It was nice having free reign with the art attack. What I hadn't foreseen, though, was that having different labels meant that products couldn't really go together on a shelf or in a bag. Well they could... but it didn't look like they belonged together. It just looked like you grabbed hold of different stuff and stuck it in a bag. That could never be Manor Hall, so the gift page has always been lacking.

It's been five years long in the making, but better late than never, I say. While Manor Hall has been busy steadily growing, so have I. I love the new labels. I'm gonna be sorry to see the old ones go. I know that. But you know what? I think this new Signature line is truly Manor Hall, and I hope you'll like it.

As usual, with the monthly website changeover, maintenance will be going on all through the weekend. New products will be uploaded, new pages will be activated, and the home page will change. All should be completed by Sunday evening. Please bear this in mind if you are shopping.

Giddy Kippers

Little girls grow up to be... little girls.

It's just turned midnight, and the day has been a long one. It's been a good one, though. I've just been looking through the photo album of memories of the last six weeks. I thought I'd share the one above. It's me with my youngest daughter on her recent visit out here.

She's a bright light, and she's still as silly as she was when she was a little one. Mind you, so is her mother. Laughter is good for the soul. It releases endorphins. Endorphins are the body's natural feelgood factor. So there you have it... the more you laugh, the better you feel. Go on, break out a big beam today...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

We Heart Olive Oil

Olive oil is a wonderful friend to many home beauty treatments. Used alone, or with other kitchen cupboard staples, olive oil is a favorite among natural beauty enthusiasts.

Nails and Cuticles: A twenty minute soak in a small cup of olive oil does wonders for brittle nails and rough cuticles. Add a little sugar when you're done soaking for a moisturizing hand massage.

Hands: If your hands are feeling the rough of the season, massage in a little olive oil before bed and slip on some cotton gloves.

Bath: Add a drizzle of olive oil to your bath water for an all over moisturizing treat. A few drops of lavender essential oil makes for a nice soothing calm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Music To Soap By - The Proclaimers

I'm in a waiting game right now here at the Manor. I've been at the Big-Break bus stop since last November. Yes, almost one whole year. And if there's anything worse than being in such a place, it's being there alone. So in the face if it all getting a bit too much, I'm sharing with you. If it should fall through... then I can at least weep among friends.

The hoops I've jumped through have been many. It's all part of growing a business though, and so I embraced what was required of me. It's been frightening, and it's also been exciting. It's been a roller coaster of a thrill ride, that's for sure. Product submission, forms, e-files, forms, ingredient compliance, more e-files, bar code registration, label redesigns, new bottles, and ohh... bless my techy guy husband.

Yesterday morning, Manor Hall products were loaded into the database of a big household name supermarket chain store. I think the "Can't Be Happening" excursion stops today for me. I think it is happening. I think the Big-Break bus is finally pulling into the station, and it's time to believe.

Fear. Excitement. Doubt. Hope. Elation. Ohhh... what I'm feeling this morning is just a giddiness of so many emotions that my knees won't stop wobbling. I've been up most of the night, and I've lost count of the amount of times I have sat with my hands cupping my mouth and nose, lost in a tremendous feeling of "You gotta be kidding me, right?".

I'm just Susan Mann. I have a little soap company called Manor Hall Soap that has grown slowly since 2004. This year started with Jason having major bowel surgery. I've had a frozen soaping shoulder for most of it. And through it all, someone who didn't know anything about me has had faith in my Manor Hall. I am seriously over-whelmed.

So... I broke out the big percussion when I walked into the workshop this morning, and put the music on. As always, it's on reapeat, and it's loud. If I'm jinxing things, then that's the way it will be. I've kept my emotions in check for almost twelve long months while I did what was required for each phase. Personal life creating demands often, and spreading myself thin on the ground. I'm sorry... but after being up half the night in tears of total disbelief, it's time to start believing in myself. The year will soon be over. Jason is well. So am I. And I believe I am holding a ticket for the Big Break Bus.

This might be the only chance I get to sing this song with such belief. Enjoy it. Play it loud. And if you have kids, you'll love the video. I don't know Maisie and Jenny, but they are awesome! So, please sing with me as I wait for the bus to pull up. It won't be long now. "A-hah, a-hah, a-hah..."

The Proclaimers, 1988/89 - I'm On My Way

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Up For Grabs

Jessica over at CraftGossip is hosting a giveaway of some Manor Hall products. I've talked about CraftGossip before in this post.

Here's an excerpt from her contest page:
GIVEAWAY: Manor Hall Soap Company is giving away a luxurious prize pack that includes three full-size Art House Soaps in Caffe, Autumn & Grace scents, as well as a wooden soap tray and loofah.
If you like the Art House soaps, get over to Craft Gossip now to the giveaway page and find out how you can enter and win! Hurry, though... the contest ends Friday at midnight!

Good luck!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gimme Some Sugar

Every year, it's the same. All through the summer I fuss and fret over my sugar scrubs. Then the winter comes and I fuss and fret some more. The problem for me is that the sugar scrubs are made from oils that are liquid at room temperature, and these oils can occasionally slip out from under the lids. All it takes is one teeny microscopic oil droplet on the rim of the jars before they are sealed, and with any jostling, it's "Hey lads... we are so outta here!" Order boxes travel in the back of the postal trucks... jostle jostle... and it can be leaky jar time if I'm not careful.

Winter's on its way and in the colder weather, the sugar scrubs give me a different headache. The oils are often cooled through traveling, making it a chore to try and mix when they arrive. Okay, most folk know all about sugar scrubs, and how the oil sinks, and that a quick stir around is all that's needed. Some love this part of the scrubs... while for others, it's a chore.

Little Miss Fuss and Fret will no longer be my name from now on. The sugar scrubs have been revised, and are now creamed nicely with coconut oil. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, and helps to bind the liquid oils, while yielding a lovely creamy consistency. Coconut oil is also absolutely wonderful for the skin.

So what's not to love? New travel friendlier sugar scrubs are on the website now available to buy. You get a delightfully creamy spa product, and I get to sleep at night. I'd say it's a win win all round.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Classic Body Wash - Almost Sunset

Our classic body wash recipe is now infused with skin-loving cranberry and white tea extracts, and weighs in at 9 fluid ounces, 12% more than before. This all natural sulfate free body wash gel is made from organic oils of coconut, olive and jojoba, and is free of synthetics and artificial surfactants. With added organic aloe vera for its moisturizing skin softening kindness, this body wash feels silky soft on your skin.

cranberry extract: radiance restoring for all skin types
white tea extract: rich in polyphenols, anti aging help for skin
organic aloe juice: calming and soothing on the skin
organic jojoba oil: hypoallergenic and skin softening
lemongrass essential oil: promotes relaxation and restful sleep
ylang ylang essential oil: eases stress and promotes harmony

With the Almost Sunset blend of pure oil of lemongrass for the spirit, and ylang to pleasantly soothe, this smoky sunsetting scent bewitches with a kick of other essential oils including patchouli.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the Way

It's the weekend again, and Jason's jumped into the techy seat while I go pour, label and shrink wrap.

He's been working behind the scenes on the website for six weeks now. We have a few new pages ready to unveil. There are also new products all set to go live from the weekend onwards, and a few new gift sets for those who like gift giving.

New bottles, labels and a kicked up formula for the organic body wash have already been completed and the page is live. The first photo is already there, and the rest will follow soon. You'll also find some of the signature scents are expanding to include bath and body collections. Ruby Moon is now available to buy in the organic body wash.

New Art House soaps are curing as I prepare for the festive launch, and out of stock soaps to cure for the new month are:

Sweet Neem
Spearmint Grapefruit
Hardy Har Harvest
Choccy Orange Kerfuffle

All orders from this week's newsletter should be out of the door by Monday. I crave the return of mom-in-law, Barbara. It's amazing the difference an extra pair of hands makes. It's also a bit of a sad act when I'm singing and silly-dancing to the seventies stuff on my own.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Skin Loves Oats

The use of oatmeal in skin care has a long history dating right back to the ancient Egyptians. The Romans and Greeks recorded how bathing with oats helped with healing skin troubles. The tiny oat has had a long journey through the centuries as a natural skin healer, and in 1989 after years and years of well documented and respected studies, oatmeal was finally recognized by the FDA as a safe and effective over the counter skin protectant.

The high concentration of starches and beta glucan in oats are what give oatmeal the ability to hold onto moisture, and protect the skin. Oatmeal also boasts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities, which come from the presence of its different kinds of phenols.

The avenacins found in oatmeal, have potent anti-fungal activity as well as having a soap-like cleansing quality. When finely milled, the tiny oat particles adhere to the skin, smoothing and removing dry skin build up. When introduced to water, the ground oat powder forms a viscous barrier which is important protection from outside irritants. These different moisturizing properties found in oats all contribute toward maintaining the integrity of the skin's barrier, preventing water loss, and alleviating itch.

Among the many sugars, vitamins and minerals to be found in natural oats, is vitamin E, a valuable antioxidant. Oxidative stress is implicated in many skin complaints, and different inflammatory conditions can be helped with the protection offered by antioxidants.

Oatmeal is a natural product, and is helpful with a long list of skin troubles, including: dry skin, prickly heat, hives, sunburn, chickenpox, poison ivy, oak and sumac, insect bites, winter itch, atopic dermatitis, and allergic or irritant contact dermatitis.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jojoba and Oatmeal

Spilling with wildcrafted jojoba oil and fine oatmeal, this soothing bar of extra mild is a luxury for your skin.

Hypoallergenic, non-toxic, and carrying the natural antioxidant vitamin E, the skin softening qualities of jojoba oil are exceptional. It penetrates the skin with ease, and is readily absorbed without any greasy after feel. It is non-clogging on pores, and with the anti-inflammatory qualities of myristic acid, is a very useful oil for acne. The different moisturizing properties found in oats all contribute toward maintaining the integrity of the skin's barrier, preventing water loss, and alleviating itch.

This bar is fragrance free, and yields a wonderful creamy rich lather to baby your skin with the gentleness it deserves.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Back to Normal

Yes, Columbus Day weekend is over... the office is open, and it's all back to normal now after my family break. Yesterday the the invoices were all printed off, and today I have been packing.

I'm still packing, and the first shipping emails will be going out in the next 24 hours. Obviously those who have waited the longest will be shipping first. I will be working all through the weekend though, so every order with the CANTWAIT coupon code will be packed and out of here by Monday morning.

The October newsletter is set for next Monday evening, and it's gonna be a good one. If you want to be in on the deals, you can sign up here to make sure you don't miss out. Thank you, and I hope your Holiday weekend was a great one!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

October Freebie

Every month I get to enjoy giving away a free bar of soap with every order. Never a mystery and always full size, the order box freebie for the month of October is a bar of Honey Me Smooth. Check out the freebie page to see what else can be free inside your order box this month.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Music to Soap By - Bay City Rollers

Okay... 6.15 this morning and the WrapFest began. I wish it was only a case of wrapping the soap bars, but it starts with carrying them, tray by tray from the curing shelves onto the workbench. Then the quality control starts. I don't like blemishes and dings, so I put those soaps onto the Mischief Makers shelf. They're perfectly good soaps, and many of you love the bargain.

From there, I then begin the wiping. It's like each bar is my own little pride and joy, and I want it to look its best when it goes out into the world. So, I wipe and polish every single one of them, setting them up as I go along like soldiers waiting for their uniforms.

They're now ready for wrapping. Yes, I do it all myself, and it's done by hand. I'd love a machine... but I don't have machine money. I also cut the wax wrap by hand too.

I use a guillotine for that. Don't let that task fool you, though. It's a slippery affair cutting the paper because, well... because wax wrap is slippery. I manage to do eight sheets at a time. I've tried more, but eight sheets is the tipping point. I dream of having my paper cut for me. Buying it in made to order. Maybe one day.

And so the fingers set to work. After six years of wrapping I've got it down to a fine art, and I wonder sometimes if I don't have six fingers on each hand. Pick up a wax wrap... lay it shiny side down... set the soap bar square... pick up the sides... gather the corners... crease, crease and crease... and voila! One down, 55 to go.

After the batch has been wrapped, I then lay them all face up in rows on the labeling station. That's a fancy name for another workbench. I have a few for different purposes, and I call them "stations". I swear, it's like doing a tango. Grab your partner now, one step sideways... one step forward... one step over and... slide, 2, 3, 4.

All the way through the wrapping stage I so look forward to making the final move over to the labels. The thought keeps me going all the time my little fingers are in overdrive with the wrapping. But you know what? It's so short lived, because once I've transferred the little army of dressed bars, I'm then peeling, lining up, and sticking... turning them all over, and doing the same again for the backs. Seriously... I long to get on to the next batch with every label I put on.

And there you have it. I suppose it's a treadmill really. It's like factory work. But it's my own little factory, and I am my own taskmaster. But don't be fooled by that, either. I'm so hard on myself, it's unreal. I seriously have to learn to delegate. But for now, it's 6.00am starts, and 8.30 pm finishes. Long days, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

The music is on loud. It's my 1970's tango - UK style, of course. Grab your partner now, one step sideways... one step forward... one step over and... slide, 2, 3, 4.

Bay City Rollers, 1974 - Shang-a-Lang

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Stall

There's a lot of things to do this next ten days. The new products are ready for the web site, and that means photographs, product descriptions, new pages made. Then, there's the quarterly website maintenance, my big Boston show to prepare for, and a mountain of soap bars to wrap and wrap and wrap.

In between all of this, I've got my son and his fiancee arriving from England. The only time I'm crazier than right now is the Christmas season. I've spent the whole weekend packing all the order boxes and the shipping notices for the last ones have gone out this evening.

I can't be everywhere at once, no matter how much I want to be. So, I've closed the office for the next two weeks, while I pass the computer to Jason so he can do his techy stuff. I'm still here and I'll still be blogging. You can still order your faves on the web site and if you use the coupon CANTWAIT, you'll get an extra 12% discount off your order. The office reopens on Monday, October 11th and shipping is set to start again on Wednesday the 13th. Thank you!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coffee Beams

Meet Caffe.

Moisturizing olive oil, rich coffee butter, and freshly brewed morning coffee ... all stirred together in a fragrant percolation of sensory awareness. A smooth blend of the best, for that soft skin start to your day.

She's another new Art House Soap at The Manor. Available now...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Teal Family

September has turned out to be a real family month for me. My mother-in-law came to stay for most of it. In fact, at the end of the first week, she returned home, only to make the four state drive back three days later. That was the time when my youngest daughter and her husband arrived for an eight day stay.

Two days before she made the flight, she threw a Teal Toes party at the cafe owned by her sister-in-law. She'd plotted and planned throughout August, working with Carey over at And by the time the big party day came, she had leaflets, handout cards, ribbons and stickers. Donna at the cafe kindly donated the space and the room was decked out in teal, with pink as a nice contrast. Teal balloons, teal trailer ribbons, teal nail polish. All teal, teal, teal. A nice welcome for everyone who was due to arrive.

The day was a huge success, with lots of friends and family, and friends of friends, and cafe patrons all coming and going for the whole afternoon. Toenails were painted, as were fingernails, and there was even one or two teal colored ribbons painted on faces.

Teal Toes is a family all on its own. All through September, women all across America have thrown their own little Teal Toes party. Some in many a number, others with just their BFF. It's all been about one large body of people gathering together to make a noise. It's a huge Teal Toes party. A family of teal toes, all spreading the word about ovarian cancer, by painting their toenails teal and telling everyone they know about the whispering symptoms.

There's still a week of September left to go. It isn't too late to join the party, with your own bottle of teal colored nail polish. There's nothing that says you can't do it alone, but it's a feeling and a half sharing with someone else.

The photos above are from the cafe party held by my youngest daughter, and her sister-in-law Donna. There's five days of the month remaining. Go grab that bottle of teal and make some noise.

In memory of Linda. 1956-2005