It’s no surprise to tell you how much I love candles, there is something lovely about lighting a candle, whether scented or not, that can add so much to any day. I love how candles can create an ambience and atmosphere, create a cozy atmosphere on cold days, add a sense of occasion to any meal, fill the home with lovely scent, create an aura of intimacy, and add light to different areas.
But candles aren’t the only source of alternative lighting that is available for creating atmosphere and ambience and this blog post will show you some other forms of alternate lighting that I love.
First up is salt lamps. I know there has been a lot of hype over the past year or so regarding their health benefits but for me I just really like the light that they give off when on. I currently have 2 that I use regularly, one in my bedroom and one in my living room. The light they give off is a soft, calming almost fire like tone which creates a lovely warming, cozy atmosphere. It is a soft sort of light, really diffused and not overly bright, though I find I can read by the one in the bedroom which is perfect for me as having a light that is too bright can make me more awake than sleepy.
Next up is lamps. Lamps are really good at adding directional light where you need it most, whether it’s a desk lamp, table lamp or floor lamp, they are great for brightening up certain areas or using to highlight certain aspects that you want people to notice. I have several different types of lamp and use them for different things. My anglepoise lamp is perfect for when I am working on something – usually an art project or when I’m at my laptop of an evening and working on my blog. I like that you can direct the lamp in almost any way so that the light is in the right place for whatever you are working on. I have my side lamp (the dinosaur one) which is on a timer because it gets quite dark here of an afternoon and sometimes I don’t really notice how dark it is if I’ve been absorbed in doing something. I have the lamp behind my cuddle chair which I really only use for reading or if guests are round and its a bit dim in the room. It creates a really nice cozy atmosphere and makes the cuddle chair even more appealing and comfy looking than normal (if that’s possible!)
And lastly, novelty lights. All sorts of lights are in this category – fairy lights, word lights, a fish bubble lamp, this category is just about adding fun elements really rather than being proper light sources. However, these lights can create a good atmosphere regardless of how they are used.
I have fairy lights in my bedroom around the alcove that my bed sits in, I don’t really use them (they are battery operated and eat batteries like no tomorrow) but they are nice to have on once in a while and create a really lovely, magical vibe. I also have fairy lights in my garden, they are solar-powered and I use them to light the steps and handrail at night, there is something really lovely about sitting in the garden on a warm summers night and seeing the lights twinkling away, plus they are a safety feature too!
I have word lights, they spell the word JOY and, though they are supposed to be Christmas lights, I’m considering leaving them up for the year as I really like how sparkly and fun they are. They add light to my shelving unit which in turn brings people’s attention to it and the items on it, and being a black unit, sometimes people don’t notice the things I have on display there. Plus they always make me smile, even on the dullest day.
And lastly, the fish bubble lamp. I can remember these being a bit “trendy” back in the 90’s and always wanting one but never being able to have one so when I saw one on sale locally I decided to buy it. There is something really soothing about watching this lamp and I’m not sure if it’s the bubbles, watching the plastic fish bobbing up and down or the lights cycle through a spectrum of colour but it really does help me to calm down and relax!
I started making some candles back in December to give away as gifts, it’s not something I have done for a really long time. The last time I made candles I was probably 10 or 11 and had a Get Set Candle Making Set by Waddingtons (sadly discontinued) and I really loved creating my own candles. At the time there wasn’t really much information about different waxes to use and how bad certain ones can be for the environment, our homes or our health and I’m pretty sure that the kit I had used paraffin wax. Back to today…I had a look online at what sort of waxes were available and which would be best for what I wanted to do and Soy Wax seemed to be the best so that I what I chose to create my candles with.
I’m not a candle making expert and have since learned that there are lots of techniques when it comes to candle making which I am currently researching, but if you want to make a nice candle for yourself or as a gift then I can show you my method below…
Before we begin I need to just outline a few things…. Please, only use scent that is suitable for candles, DO NOT use essential oils, while they do smell lovely and have healing properties. when burned the healing properties are pretty much zero, they can emit toxins when burned which can cause respiratory problems and they are a fire risk. DO NOT add things to your candle like glitter or dried flowers, while it may make the candle look pretty it can be a fire risk and also can clog up the wick when burning so that the flame is unstable. DO NOT use crayons or food dye to colour your candles, for one they probably won’t work, and secondly, when the crayons melt and come into contact with flame they can emit toxic fumes, and lastly, it can be a fire risk.
Once you have found a suitable container for your candle you then need to work out how much wax it holds. I found this site to be really useful. Once you know how much wax you will need you will then need to weigh the wax out. I weighed mine into the container I used to melt it down. Make sure the container you use is dry and free from any contaminants (like dust or hair).
Once you know how much wax you will need to fill your container you will then need to attach the wick to one of the wick sustainers. To do this thread your wick through the hole in the wick sustainer and pull through. Once the wick end is near the flat side of the wick sustainer use pliers and crimp the pointed bit of the wick sustainer around the wick to hold it in place. DO NOT cut the wick just yet!
Now you need to get your candle container, make sure that it is clean and dry. add a tiny bit of blue tack to the underside of the wick sustainer and then press it into the base of the candle container making sure that it is attached in the centre of the base. I used a jar and needed to use long tweezers to help get it into the correct position.
We now need to use the pencil (or other long item) and wrap the free wick around it and then balance the pencil onto the top of the candle container. This ensures that the wick will stay straight and even all the way down the candle once the wax has been poured.
Now that the candle container and wick are set up you can now melt the wax you measured out. To do this firstly fill and boil the kettle then pour the boiling water into a saucepan, add the container of wax to the saucepan of water so that the container sits in the water similar to a bain marie. I then placed the saucepan onto the hob over a low heat just to keep the water hot and help melt the wax a bit easier.
Optional Step if Using Scent and/or Dye. Once your wax has melted and is of a clear appearance and runny in consistency with no visible lumps you can remove the container from the water and then add the dye and scent of your choice. I add the dye first (follow the manufacturers instructions) and then stir until all the dye has dissolved before adding the scent (again, check the manufacturers instructions). Dont be tempted to stir too vigorously as you don’t want to introduce any air bubbles into the wax.. Once the scent has been added stir gently, again, avoiding creating air bubbles, for around 5 mins so that the scent can distribute evenly through the wax.
If you are not using scent or dye, remove the container from the water and stir the wax for around 5 mins. Stir slowly and gently so that you don’t get any air bubbles forming.
Once the wax has cooled down a bit you can now pour it into your candle container. Do this slowly and steadily being careful not to disturb the wick.
Do not move the candle once it has been poured until it has solidified, moving the candle when in its liquid state can introduce air bubbles into the wax or disturb the wick.
I chose to add a plain layer of wax to the top of my candles, I worked out how much wax I would need for the container then weighed out around 25 grams less than what was needed. Once the wax was set in the jar I then melted the extra wax and poured on top to create a 2 tone candle. Once you are happy with your candle and it has fully set you can then trim the wick with scissors.
11. As I was giving these away as gifts I added a small charm and a tag with the scent name on.
Now that Christmas is over and the presents have been given I can share with you the things I made as gifts this year!
I made these for my Mum using left over candle wax, they are scented with cherry Bakewell scent. I used silicone ice moulds to create them and, while it was an experiment to see if it would work, they turned out perfect so I was really pleased to be able to gift them to my Mum.
The purple one is baby powder scented and I made that for my lovely neighbour. The red jar one is cherry Bakewell which I made for myself, the layered one in the same picture is bubblegum scented (which I also kept as it was leftover wax from another candle), the candles in the glass mugs are scented with Tranquility, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Cornish Coastline and Cherry Bakewell which I gave to my brother Ben and his wife Egle. The three jar candles are vanilla custard and cherry bakewell scented which I made for my 3 step daughters. The jar candle on its own is bubblegum scented which I made for my little brother Richard.
I made these for my twin niece and nephew James and Ellie. I had bought them time telling watches in pink for Ellie and blue for James to help them learn to tell the time but when they arrived they were just in plastic sleeves. I wanted to be able to gift them in something that was a bit more special so I purchased a load of gems and plain wooden pencil boxes from Hobbycraft along with some Modpodge and set about creating them. I already had the Hello Kitty and Nemo flat back bits in my stash along with glitter so it was applying the modpodge and glitter, another layer of modpodge, gems and another coat of modpodge and leaving to dry before placing their watches inside and wrapping.
I made this bullet journal/diary thing for Mum because she is never without her diary. Even when I was small I remember her always having her diary to hand and writing all sorts of memos and things into it. I made her this so she can log everything she needs to and carry it about day-to-day. I included a future log, a monthly overview for each month, weekly shopping and to do lists, a recipe for each month, a section for reflections on each month and lots of other things. I even included a different holiday for each day using images that I found online (though I can’t seem to find a link…) I think she really liked it!
What did you make as gifts for people this Christmas?
I think it’s always a really nice idea, at the end of a month, just to sit down and think about some things that you want to achieve in the following month. I am going to share with you, today, my little list of goals I want to achieve this month. I have split my list into 4 sections covering my blog and social media, home, art and craft and personal. Here are the goals I’d like to achieve this coming month.
Blog and Social Media
Stay on track with my blog routine. December was a mad month for blog posts, I more than doubled the usual amount of posts because I wanted to share so much about Christmas and Christmas Ideas but now that is all over I’m going to try to get back to my usual routine of posting on a Tuesday and Friday.
Share more on social media. Especially Facebook and Instagram. Though I have got these platforms, I haven’t been using them a great deal for one reason or another so this month I am setting a goal to share at least one blog post image or the link to the blog post to these sites.
Change my blog domain. Upgrade my blog extension from a wordpress.com extension to a co.uk or another extension to make it easier to share my site across social media platforms and make it easier for people to find my blog.
Defrost freezer and deep clean fridge. I really like to do this in the New Year, not only do I get to have a nice clean fridge and freezer I can also take stock of everything that I have got in there, decide what needs using up, what I could do with getting rid of and what I need to stock up on!
Wash Sofa Covers. I tend to do this job every few months and love how fresh my room smells once the covers are back in place.
Create a cleaning timetable. When I lived in my other house I had a cleaning timetable in place but since moving I’ve not really had one. A cleaning timetable helps me to remember to do things like make sure the right bins go out on the correct day. This month I want to create a new timetable and write it into my home planner and (try to) stick to it.
Art and Craft
Make some more candles. I made some candles the other month and would like to make some more as it was really fun and a great way to relax and it means I will always have something to gift as presents. I’d also like to research methods of making candles as there are so many different techniques!
Start making cards again. I used to make lots of cards and even started to sell them for charity a long time ago. I’d like to get back into making and giving my own cards to friends and family as it is a bit more personal and special than buying shop bought cards.
Start a scrapbook/journal. This is something that, again, I used to do years ago and am thinking that I would like to start doing again. I have a La De Dah Journal already which would be perfect as a scrap journal. There are lots of different papers you can buy to add to the journal and so many different ways to use the pages that it would be the perfect choice for what I’d like to do.
Work on Lettering. I bought a dot grid book a short while ago so I could start working on my own lettering and create my own alphabets to use in my journal. I think that cold, dark, January would be the perfect time to start on this project.
Finish reading The Snowman. I started reading this book back in September just before I got diagnosed with stress and anxiety. Since then, because of my medication and symptoms associated with my mental health, my concentration levels have meant that reading a book or watching a tv show have been hard work. I’d really like to finish this book by the end of January.
Plan another craft event. I really enjoyed hosting my Crafternoon in aid of Mind and it got me thinking about maybe hosting a craft group every few months where I can get my friends together and we can learn new crafting skills together. After talking to everyone that came to my event it seems that this is something that they would all be interested in.
Arrange another trip to London. My brother and his family live in London and I really want to go and visit them again so this month I will try to make some plans to visit in the near future (hopefully end of Jan or Feb sometime!).
Go out for the day. Since I have been unwell I have really struggled with basic things like shopping and running errands let alone visiting friends and going places. Leaving the house in general has been a daily struggle as my anxiety seems to build so much that I can’t seem to even step outside my front door. This month I would really like to make a change to that and am going to plan a day out somewhere, even if it’s to the local shopping centre or park.
Christmas is a time for families and friends to get together which means a lot of guests and visiting going on. I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you create a welcoming atmosphere when you have guests arriving.
Make sure the entrance way and hall are free from clutter. Easy ways to do this are to have a designated place for shoes, boots, coats and other outdoor accessories (like umbrellas). If needs be, move items to bedrooms just for that period of time. Clear mail as it arrives, put junk mail into the recycling bin, bills and other items can be stored neatly in a file or box elsewhere in the house.
Make sure the house is warm, not too hot or cold but at a temperature where if you are wearing a thin cardi or jumper that it feels comfortable.
Keep tv volume down, or turn it off completely and play some background music quietly instead.
Light candles, choose a scented one to fill your home with a lovely scent and add a few unscented ones to create relaxing pools of light.
If possible, light your home with lamps and festive lights instead of glaring ceiling lights. This will create a lovely warm atmosphere.
If you know when your guests are arriving make sure the kettle has been filled and boiled so that you can quickly make your guests drinks and spend less time waiting for the kettle to boil away from them.
If you are serving wine or other drinks make sure they are cooled and have ice already made. Put the glasses out ready to serve the drinks in.
If you want to serve snack items, such as peanuts, mixed nuts and dried fruits or chocolates, place in small bowls and dot them about the room in easy to reach places like on window sills or on the coffee table.
Plump up any cushions you may have on sofas, shake out any blankets or rugs and re-fold them, brush down the seats of the sofa to make them look neat and tidy.
If you have magazines or other items out, if possible put them away or stack them neatly so they are not in the way of guests who may want to put drinks down.
When your guests arrive, greet them at the door, take their coats (and shoes) and hang up, offer them a beverage and show them through to the main room you will be using.
Remember, your guests are there to see you so relax and enjoy their company!
How do you create a welcoming atmosphere for your guests?
I like to have a check list of things that I run through around a week before the big day – it gives me time to re-assess what needs doing, what has been done and anything that may have been overlooked.
Here’s how my list normally looks
Presents and Cards
All Cards written and sent (the last day for UK mail to be sent in time for Christmas is 18/12/18)
Presents bought (list names)
Wrapped (cross through names)
Presents still to buy (List Names and items next to names)
Check if you need more paper, sellotape or tags
All decorations put up
Clean and mop floors
Hoover – especially under the tree (live or fake, both shed!)
Damp wipe surfaces and dust
Tidy all main rooms guests will use
Keep sink and kitchen sides clean and clear
Make sure there are crackers for the table
Check candles and candle holders if you are using candles as part of the table decoration
Check that you have a lighter or matches that work!
Create a Christmas song playlist – I use Spotify.
Food and Drink
Run through menu and write a list of items needed (regardless of whether you think you have them!)
Go through list and check items you have got and cross off what you already have
Check drink levels – wines, spirits, beer, pop, juice, non alcoholic drinks (buy more if needed)
Check party food (crisps, nuts, nibbles, cheese, crackers, chocolates and buy if needed)
Make sure you have basic food (salad, bread, butter, soup, beans etc, again buy if needed)
Check toilet roll supply
Washing Up Liquid
If you have a pet, make sure you have enough food for them
Stock up on batteries
If I think of any more then I will be sure to add them to this list!
Most people go out and buy their friends and family gifts but there is something nice about making a gift for someone, and something really touching about receiving a hand-made gift from a loved one. There are lots of different gifts you can make so today’s post is a little bit of inspiration (along with links to instructions and where to buy things that you may need in order to make the gift.)
For someone who loves scented candles…
Why not make your own to give as gifts? You can get kits that are reasonably priced in most craft shops (such as this kit for £10 from Hobbycraft) If you have never made candles before then a kit is the perfect way to start, and should you want to then continue making candles you can buy all the items you need individually both on-line and in craft stores. I really like these tins that you can use as candle holders.
For the one with a sweet tooth…
How about having a go at making your own fudge or toffee? You can then present it in a cute container, tin or jar. There are lots of recipes online and heaps of handy instruction videos, but I’m a fan of this one for fudge (its super quick to make and tastes amazing!) and this one for toffee (I could eat this all to myself!). You can get really pretty tins, jars and other containers in most supermarkets now and its worth checking out the cheaper shops to see what they have as well. I really like the look of Kilner Jars or these clip lid jars from Wilkinson .
For the Fashionista
Nothing would be more fabulous than a one of a kind t-shirt. You can buy plain t-shirts fairly cheaply in most clothing outlets and supermarkets so why not buy one and customise it? You can use fabric paint from any craft shop (I love the Tulip range as they have lots of different finishes). You could create a t-shirt with the recipient’s initial on it, a tie dye top, or even add in sewn elements like pockets or a collar depending on their fashion tastes.
For the Beauty Lover
Home made bath bombs are a really lovely gift to make and receive. You can customise the scent to match the recipients favorite scents or add elements such as popping candy or petals, and make them any colour or shape you choose. There are some fab tutorials available on-line, my favorite one is this one over on youtube .
For the Jewellery Magpie
A cool necklace or bracelet to match their style or personality always goes down a treat and doesn’t need anything more than some waxed cord and some pretty beads in the recipients favorite colours. You can add items like small charms or shells, pretty ribbon or chains. I really like this store for my jewellery making supplies. The beauty of making a gift like this is that it can be as simple or intricate as you want it to be and can be created regardless of skill level.
For the Blogger
A notebook is always a welcomed gift (talking from experience) and if you know anyone who blogs then why not gift them a customised note-book? I really like Kraft books for customisation purposes and they are pretty cheap to pick up too, though you could choose any plain hard backed book. Once you have chosen the book you can let loose with your design, maybe you could personalise with the recipients blog name or a favorite hashtag? And if the blog has a theme (like recipes or food for example) you could decorate the front and back to match. The fab thing about a personalised notebook is that you can decorate with any material you want, whether it be painting something onto it, sticking things like feathers and sequins on to it or decopatching it, the possibilities and customisation possibilities are pretty much endless!
For the Student
Fabric can be bought in many different places these days and in tons of different designs so why not try your hand at making a pencil-case or zip close pouch for the student in your life? I really love fat quarter fabric bundles and experimenting with making my own zipped pouches and they are super useful, not just for pens and pencils, you could make smaller ones to gift as coin purses, larger ones for makeup or even to keep an e-reader in. I love the fat quarter bundles you can get at Hobbycraft though you can buy these at most fabric or craft shops and you can pick up zips there too. I found the Wikihow tutorial really easy to follow!
For the Photographer
As a photographer, there is nothing better than taking photos, printing the best ones and displaying them around the home. A DIY photo display using an old picture frame, some cheap string lights and some tiny pegs would be a lovely gift to receive, especially if you added prints of your favorite photographs that they had taken too. You can find old picture frames in charity shops, at boot sales and local selling pages and can customise to suit by spraying with a colour of your choice, after removing the glass and back of the frame before adding a string of fairy lights. Once the frame has been put together add the chosen photos using tiny pegs like these. If you wanted to, you could add to the back, a piece of fabric or wallpaper with a cool pattern or design on it or just leave the back open. The beauty of this gift is that new life has been given to something old, its been re-purposed and upcycled, the pegs mean that the images displayed can be switched around easily and there is the flexibility to display anything you want, from photos to lists.
For the Book Lover
Instead of gifting another book token, how about crafting a customised tote bag for the book lover in your life to carry around their books in? If you purchase a plain tote bag (like the one here) you could use some printable fabric transfer paper (which you can find in most good stationery, craft or fabric shops) to print out and iron on to the bag a quote from the recipient’s favorite book. To make the bag extra special you could use beads, buttons or sequins to enhance the quote.
For the Foodie
My Dad loves cooking and I have made him flavoured oils a few years running. You can make almost any flavour of oil that you want but I have found that things like rosemary and thyme, garlic and chilli seem to give the best flavour pay off, not only that but the oils can be used in cooking, as salad dressing, dips and many other things. The method I use is …
Cut up whatever ingredient you are using to flavour the oil, and bruise it slightly so that it starts to release the flavours.
Warm up some olive oil, you want it to warm, not bubble or boil.
Add the cut up flavorings and stir gently at intervals over about 10 mins while the oil is still warming.
Remove the oil from the heat and leave to cool.
Strain the cooled oil to remove the bits of flavoring.
Before adding to bottles, I always add fresh flavour ingredients, such as a sprig of rosemary and thyme to the bottle that will have the rosemary and thyme oil added to it (this adds a bit of visual interest and lets you know at a glance which oil is which)
Add the oil to the bottle and seal.
Add a tag or sticker with the oil used, flavoring and when it was bottled.
You could give several different flavoured oils to your recipient along with a little leaflet about what you could use the oils for.
For the Eco Friendly
How about creating a unique soap dispenser repurposed from an old bottle? You could choose an empty bottle of their favorite tipple, sauce or an old glass oil bottle. Just clean out the bottle and use a pump top (I found this but you can find lots via a google search) just make sure that it will fit the bottle you will be using! There are other ideas here, which is where I found the above image! You can give the dispenser empty, or why not fill it with a lovely scented hand wash?
For Your Partner
For a gift that shows you really care how about a 365 Jar? Write down memories, songs, reasons why you love them, fold them all up small and put into a jar. The idea is that they get to pick a new note each day to read right from the 1st Jan to the end of the year. You can get really pretty jars here though any glass jar will do so long as it has a wide mouth to it.
For Your Bestie
What would be nicer than a friendship package? You could include a small hand-made candle, a bath bomb, a CD of both of your favorite songs, a little book with photos printed out of the pair of you along with little notes about the day that they were taken. Package it all up in a pretty gift box or wicker basket along with some chocolates or treats that you know they would enjoy.
What sort of gifts will you be making? And what would you love to receive?