Open at Last

tin setAfter weeks and weeks of hard work, endless paperwork, frustration, and waiting around, I’ve finally opened my Etsy shop. It’s only lip balms at the moment, but I’m working on getting more products safety assessed and added. Come take a peek:

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/OliviaSoaps?ref=si_shop

I’m also blogging about natural products (vegan, of course!): recipes, info, special offers, etc. over here:

http://oliviasoapsandbalms.wordpress.com/

Once I’m making a profit, I’ll be donating a certain % to an animal sanctuary. Can’t wait!

Amazon Dumps Foie-Gras

Foie-Gras production may be banned in the UK, but that doesn’t stop retailers like Fortnum & Mason and Amazon from selling it.

Thanks largely to the Viva! campaign, Amazon has stopped selling foie-gras.

I had a quick peek, and sure enough, no foie-gras came up when I searched. Plenty of books, terrines, and other stupid paraphernalia. Who the fuck wants a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of slimy brown liver? It looks like cat food. But no actual foie-gras for sale.

If you’re not aware of how foie-gras (“fatty liver”) is produced, take a peek here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foie_gras

Here is a photo of 2 duck livers. The one on the right is a normal liver, weighing around 50g. The one on the left weighs around 300g and is from a duck that has been force-fed 4 pounds of grain each day until his liver becomes enlarged and diseased.

Some People Just Don’t Care

(just a note…I made the donation (€75=$100) to Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary a couple weeks ago. Yay!)

My three weeks in America were…difficult.

Somehow, my mother and I got to talking about eating meat. She came out with the old, “if we didn’t eat them, they’d overrun us,” citing the over-population of deer and how hunting them keeps us safe on the roads. I wanted to suggest that maybe we should do the same to people, since there’s too many of us, and it would mean fewer murderers and make us safer. Instead I tried to explain to her about factory farming, but she kept talking about all the animals she sees grazing in fields. She just didn’t want to hear it. I tread carefully, but she eventually just said,

The thing is, I just don’t care.

At first, I was grateful for her honesty. That feeling quickly wore away and I just felt sad. And sickened. It’s true; some people just don’t care. They want what they want, and will do whatever it takes to block out unpleasant truths.

A few nights ago, I called my mom. We talked for quite a while, then out of the blue she said, “I’ve been thinking about the vegan thing…and some of the things you say…I think you’re right. And I want to start eating better.” She then asked me to send her a few recipes that I think she might like. Of course, she had to end it with, “But I’ll always be a carnivore!”

I don’t know if she’ll ever be vegan, but just hearing her say that gives me so much hope. Family can be the most difficult to reach. My mom’s in her 50′s and she has this idea that she can’t change. She said, “I was born eating a chicken leg.” (Ew.) Well, I was brought up the same way: meat and milk every day. I became vegan in my early 30′s. I told her that people of all ages, self-proclaimed carnivores, go vegan at all ages. It has nothing to do with age and everything to do with mindset. If you want to make changes, you will.

And I don’t really believe that she doesn’t care. I think it’s more that she doesn’t want to know, because once she knows, she’ll care a whole lot and have to make changes that she doesn’t want to make. I think faced with the truth, most people do care. Some won’t, no matter what, but most do, or will, once they know. It’s getting them to allow themselves to *see* that’s the hard part.

She has no intention of going vegan. She wants to eat healthier. But this is often how it starts. I didn’t tell her that, though. :)

My daughter (who lives with her dad) is 15. She, too, is a self-proclaimed carnivore and also “doesn’t care.” I told her that for the 3 weeks I was there, there wouldn’t be any meat. She said she’d probably die. I rolled my eyes and gave her a veggie dog. Every day, as a late evening snack, she’d get a veggie dog. She said they were better than “the real thing.”

Now, she lives in an area I have affectionately dubbed “hillbilly hell.” Her school has Future Farmers of America. They have 1 Chinese and 3 black students. They’re closed for the first day of deer hunting season. You get the picture.

What’s funny is that my daughter’s boyfriend is a wannabe vegan. He’s not actually vegan, but he wants to be, and he tries to be on occasion. He knows meat is unhealthy, he loves the health food shop, and best of all, he keeps telling my daughter she should be vegan. I’m torn between loving that he says that, and loving the fact that she tells him it ain’t happening–the last thing I want is for her to go vegan (or do anything) just because a man tells her to.

If kids in rural areas are getting hip to veganism, there’s hope for the future. Lots of it.

And once my daughter’s old enough to make her own food choices, I’m going to sit her down to watch Vegucated. If that doesn’t work, I’ll show her Earthlings. I may not want her being submissive to a man, but her mamma…well, that’s different. (I’m kidding. But she is watching Vegucated, dammit.)

My Big New Thing

Making soap

making soap

I’ve been back from the States for a while, but haven’t felt much like blogging until recently.

I’m working on a big project.

<nervous giggle>

Really, really big.

You know that idea I had to raise money for an animal sanctuary? I was going to sell watercolours on Etsy? The problem with that idea is that I suck at painting. No one is going to want one of my paintings hanging on her wall. No one. Not even my own mother. Not even me.

I am, however, good at making soaps, creams, lip balms, etc. I love it. Essential oils, cocoa butter, argan oil, jojoba wax, caustic soda…

Wait, what?

Yeah, soap making can be a little, er, dangerous. Which one of the reasons why not everyone is out there doing it. And if you want to sell this stuff, you have to jump through several flaming hoops and dish out some pennies.

Most soap you buy in the supermarket is made with animal fat and artificial fragrance. I’m going to make and sell 100% natural, vegan, soaps, creams, and balms, with as many organic ingredients as possible. I’ve chosen the name “peppermint plunder”.

In case you’re wondering…yes, caustic soda (lye) is used in making bar soap, but once the soap is “cured”, no lye remains. Just pure soapy goodness.

Once I get up and running, and earn back some of the bank-breaking investment, I’m going to donate a certain percentage of the earnings to an animal sanctuary.

Currently, I’m working through a home study course on cosmetic legislation, so I don’t go breaking any laws. Which I would have done had I not taken this course. I’m creating Good Manufacturing Policies, Product Information Files, Safety Reports, and Several Other Forms I’m Not Yet Sure What They Are For. I have to register with several regulatory body authority people places, get all of my formulae safety assessed by a cosmetic chemist, purchase a super-duper expensive stamped-for-trade scale, take out 2 insurance policies, swear on my great grandma’s grave that I won’t test on animals (they clearly don’t know me), and give a blood, urine, and semen sample. Okay, not the samples. Especially the semen, seeing as I don’t have any.

In other news, I’m doing away with the Raggedy Hens blog and just staying right here. It’s easier that way. Plus, I am going to need to set up a blog for the soap biz.

And I haven’t forgotten about my promise to donate $100 to the hen sanctuary. I received my fabulous prize money from the beautiful Jackie while I was in the States. I’ve been so caught up with this soap-making thing that it quite slipped my mind. I will be making that donation in just a few days.

Going Home

Sorry for the cross-post…this is one of the problems with having 2 separate blogs. I’m kind of regretting that decision. Jeff has an integrated vegan/writing blog and it seems to be working great for him. *Sigh*

I’m off to Ohio on Thursday for 3 whole weeks. I’ve not seen my family for 2 years, so this trip is long overdue. I used to go yearly and stay for 3 months, but I can’t afford to do that any more. The bad news is that since I didn’t go to the States last year, I wasn’t able to renew my driver’s license. It’s now very expired, and in order to renew, I’d need to take the written exam, get my permit, wait 6 months, and take the road test again. I must get my UK driver’s license when I return. Really, it’s time. Eleven years here, and I’m still afraid of a roundabout.

My mom has very generously offered to act as chauffeur as much as possible, which I’m very grateful for, but at times that may prove inconvenient for all concerned. Fortunately, she lives within walking distance of a handful of excellent shops. The best bit…an excellent health food shop is just a 2-minute walk away. I’ve also been online, figuring out the bus system, which is simple and cheap. I’ll be able to get to the library and a mega supermarket which I will not name because I’m ethically opposed to shopping there, but am on a very tight budget, so must make do with it.

I’m both dreading and looking forward to the heat. I’m used to English weather: cool and rainy. Ohio, in the summer, is hot and steamy. It’s, like, 15 Celsius here. It’s double that in Ohio. Throw in the humidity and the misery factor quadruples. I burn easily, too.

Whinge, moan, whine. What the hell’s wrong with me? I’m getting 3 weeks away from the hubster and little kiddo and getting to spend that time with my partners-in-crime mother and 15-year-old daughter. No, I’m not really complaining. It’s one of those luxurious gripes. You know, like there are too many desserts…I can’t decide. If I have this, I won’t be able to have that. Fuck. Yeah, I’m sure you feel sorry for me.

Anyway, things may be a little quiet on the blog front. Assuming my plane doesn’t crash, or I don’t take the wrong bus and end up in New Jersey, I’ll be back around the end of June. I don’t normally tell the world when I’m going away, but since my house will not be sitting empty during that time, and my husband knows how to use a bazooka, it’s not really an issue. The fact that we don’t currently own a bazooka and that his skills with it are limited to video games shouldn’t matter too much. Mere details. 

Ms Cupcake: The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town by Mellissa Morgan

cupcakeI had the opportunity to meet Ms. Morgan–a.k.a. Ms. Cupcake–at the Northern Vegan Festival in Manchester, and I bought some of her cupcakes. Once I came down from the sugar high, I knew I had to get a copy of her book. Never have I tasted such amazing cakes, vegan or otherwise. They were gorgeous, too.

While this cookbook doesn’t boast hundreds of recipes, the recipes it does have are so rich and decadent, and offer something different from the other vegan baking books out there. I have several, and I count this one as a great addition; it’s not simply more of the same.

Here are a few of the things I love about this book:
* It’s beautiful! There are photos of just about every recipe.
* Measurements are given both in grams as well as cups/spoons.
* The chart at the front of the book giving ingredient type and brand equivalents for US and UK bakers.
* A list of UK stockists at the back of the book.
* A blend of English and American recipes. (Jaffa Cakes and Jammy Dodgers…doesn’t get much more English than that.)
* It doesn’t rely heavily on egg replacer.

Thus far I’ve made the Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes, Chocolate Cake (adapted from the Turkish Delight Cake), and Victoria Sponge. Victoria Sponge is a cake I’d not yet had any luck with making vegan. It turned out fantastic. I used the cream cheese icing, and everyone who had it loved it.

Here are a few tips/points to consider with this book:

-Most of the recipes call for self-raising flour. I never bother keeping this on hand. Instead, I substitute. For every 1 cup of self-raising, use 1 cup of regular flour + 1 teaspoon baking powder + ¼ teaspoon salt (this is why the recipes do not call for salt). This is in addition to the baking powder called for in the recipe.

-From what I’ve seen, the recipes don’t call for sifting. I usually sift flour. I occasionally sift icing sugar if it’s a bit lumpy, and I *always* sift cocoa powder. For flour, I often just stir it with a whisk, which does pretty much the same thing.

-I’ve always needed to add about 10 minutes to the suggested baking times.

-I find the icing recipes make an enormous quantity, so have always cut them in half. For the Victoria Sponge, where I only wanted a small amount, I quartered it. Worked great.

I’ve compiled a list of all the recipes so you can see what you’ll get:

-Cupcakes & Muffins-

Basic Vanilla Cupcake
Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Coconut Bounty Cupcakes
Bakewell Tart Cupcakes
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Golden Syrup Cupcakes
Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes
Carrot Maple Nut Muffins
Blueberry Almond Crumble Muffins
Strawberry and Banana Muffins

-Icings-

Vanilla Buttercream
Chocolate Buttercream
Cream Cheese Buttercream
Peanut Butter Buttercream
Mint Buttercream
Custard Buttercream
Strawberry Buttercream
Chocolate Spread Topping

-Cakes-

Victoria Sponge
Turkish Delight (can be made as a chocolate cake)
Rhubarb and Custard Cake
Neapolitan Triple Layer Cake
Blueberry Lemon Loaf Cake
Banana Walnut Loaf Cake
Pineapple Upside-Down Mini Cakes

-Slices, Bars, & Brownies-

Lemon Curd Slice
Nanaimo Bars
Chocolate Brownies
Caramel Apple Nut Bars
Rocky Road Bars
Kitchen Sink Bars
Raspberry Almond Crumble Squares
Snap Bars

-Biscuits & Cookies-

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peanut Butter Cookies
Jammy Dodgers
Snickerdoodles
Jaffa Cakes
Cookie Sandwiches

-Super Sinful-

Doughnuts
Apple Fritters
Easy Fried Pie
Funnel Cakes
Dessert Sandwiches & 6 sandwich fillings
Deep-Fried Chocolate Bars
Deep-Fried Cookie Dough Balls
Various Easy Sweet Treats

Rejection Doesn’t Mean Game Over

I got my first real rejection yesterday. I say “real” because I’ve entered a few competitions. If you don’t win, it doesn’t really feel like a rejection. You don’t receive any kind of letter or email to say that you haven’t won; you only hear back if you have won.

But when you submit to a literary journal, you usually hear back. It may take a few months, but you’ll get some kind of rejection. Acceptances are rare; it’s most likely a rejection you’re going to get.

I knew this ahead of time. I also knew that it was going to hurt.

But it didn’t. At all. What I was thinking was more along the lines of,  Finally! Now I can send it off somewhere else to be rejected. I was just relieved. If I don’t collect a certain number of rejections, I’ll never be a real writer. I don’t know what that magic number is, but it’s got to be something over 100.  I’d sent this piece out 3 months ago, and although a wait time of 3 months is par for the course, it just felt like forever.

The cure for this, of course, is to write more. To have so many stories out that I’m racking up a rejection a week, minimum.

There’s another reason I’m so light-hearted about rejection. I have other plans for those stories. I may not bother sending all of them out. It feels like a waste of time. It could take a few years to get each one accepted somewhere. I could publish them myself, either here or in a collection as an ebook. Might serve me better that way.

There are advantages to traditional publication, of course: wider readership and “validation” from someone other than your family and critique group.

I don’t have enough at the moment to publish a collection, so I’ll keep sending them out until I do. My initial goal was to get them published, then when the rights revert back to me, self-publish them. But this could take years and years. Of course, I could do both: self-publish a collection and continue submitting to publishers. Writers today have far more choice than they used to.

Either way, it all comes down to the same message: I need to keep writing.

On a more positive note, I got the results back on my latest (short story) assignment for my Open University creative writing course. I’m not allowed to share my score, but it was good–very good. I’d been nervous about this submission. The story is a little crazy, and I was worried that it was just plain stupid. I’d put myself out there with this one, but the risk paid off. I’m going to work on it a little more, get it critiqued, and submit it. Or maybe publish it here.

I now have one week until I have to submit my End of Module Assignment. This piece counts for half my overall grade. I’m sweating a little because I’ve got 2000 out of 2500 words done, but it sucks. I have another story started, but only 650 words done, and I’m not sure what to do with it. But it’s a much better story so far. The protagonist is walking and breathing, and I’ve got the humour nailed. And I’ve got a week to finish it. Crap.