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How to survive the festive season

December 16, 2018

Warm open fires, children singing happily and families spending time together blissfully are the images of Christmas we see on TV. It’s a time where couples feel closer together, people repent over the mistakes they’ve made and everyone is in harmony. Right? Wrong. The truth is Christmas can highlight areas of life that aren’t so great. We are expected to have magical moments, which often don’t exist especially for those of us who have lived through divorce, death or feel like the oldest singleton in town.

So how can we survive the festive season ensuring that we make it through without arguments and telling ourselves next year we’re spending it in Goa?

6 ways to survive the festive season

  1. Christmas can be a time of financial stress. I think it’s quite a human response to sometimes feel short-changed if someone hasn’t spent as much on you or embarrassed when the reverse happens. However, spend what you can afford and recognise other people are doing the same. We generally all have what we need and anything else is just a bonus.
  2. Recognise your boundaries. I spent nearly every Christmas in my 30s lying in a single bed and reverting to the feelings I had as a teenager. I had one particularly bad year and realised that I also had choices around how I spent my time too. I didn’t need to put up with someone else’s negative behaviour for the sake of keeping the peace.
  3. Don’t drink too much. Tempers can start to flare after too much alcohol and thinking about how much you’re drinking can help stop any arguments from starting. Keeping off the drink also helps you sleep better. It means you’re not snappy, much more willing to help out and generally easier to be around.
  4. You are not a teenager anymore. There is something about setting foot into my mum’s house that makes me 16 again. I didn’t have a particularly stable childhood and those feelings of insecurity and inadequacy come flooding back. It’s easy to feel resentful and to want to raise issues that happened decades ago. However, I’m not 16 anymore, nothing is going to change and in the words of Frozen, ‘Let it Go’.
  5. Create your own traditions. I have my own family now and Christmas has taken on a different meaning. I want my son to grow up making memories of Christmas that are meaningful and special.
  6. Remember Christmas is only one day. We place so much importance on it and really it’s literally one day out of 365.
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Easy homemade Christmas gift ideas – natural soaps

December 13, 2018

Making natural soaps

I’m becoming more mindful of the plastic I’m buying, particularly when it comes to household and bathing products. I want to cut down on what I’m buying both for myself and other people and think about alternatives to packaged shower gels and bubble baths. With that in mind, I decided to make these natural soaps using dried flowers and essential oils for Christmas gifts.

There is a very technical way to make soap. It can be quite dangerous and toxic. I have limited time and a toddler so I bought a ready-made soap base. I chose this one, which is SLS and paraben free.

I made chamomile and lemongrass soaps because I felt it would be soothing during these winter months. I have a lot of essential oils at home and so plan to experiment with a few flavour combinations.

This soapmaking method is so simple, yet still looks great.

The ingredients you need are

The method

  • Scatter the dried flowers on the base. They will rise to the surface once the soap base is poured in. I tried layering the soap but they didn’t feel that durable. I also think the soaps seem more natural when you can see the flowers more clearly.
  • Cut the soap into roughly a bar of soap per soap mould. The soap cuts like butter so you’ll just need a kitchen knife.
  • Put the soap base in the plastic jug and microwave. I blast it for 30 seconds and heat it up slowly to stop bubbles forming.
  • Let the soap set slightly to get rid of any bubbles.
  • Pour into the mould. Try to do this slowly and let the flowers rise up.
  • Let the soaps set for a few hours.
  • Wrap in beeswax or eco-friendly parchment paper
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Flavoured chilli salts – an easy homemade Christmas gift

December 12, 2018
flavoured chilli salts

I have a lot of great cooks in my family so I wanted to give them something they would actually use. I decided to make flavoured chilli salts because who doesn’t like a bit of extra spice in their life.

You will need:

How to make flavoured chilli salts

A container – I had these little jars from Ikea left overfrom last year’s crafting

Decent sea salt – I bought Maldon sea salt

Chilli flakes

Paprika

The method:

You need about one teaspoon of chilli flakes and one teaspoon of paprika per quarter cup of sea salt. However, this can really be adjusted to taste.

I used the container to help measure and whizzed everything up in my nutribullet. I used a teaspoon to put the flavoured chilli salts back in but if you were fairly steady of hand, you could just pour it.

And that’s it. Done.

I think they would look great with some brown paper labels explaining the contents.

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Easy handmade Christmas gifts – mulling baubles

December 9, 2018

It always feels like Christmas has started with my first glass of mulled wine. This is one of the reasons why I decided to make mulling baubles for some of the men in my life.

All you need is:

Clear fillable baubles. I bought this set of 12 from Amazon. They are plastic – however, I’m hoping they will be reused year on year.

Ribbons, pom poms or anything fun to decorate the bauble with. I found these tassels in Hema.

Cinnamon sticks

Nutmeg

Star anise

Cloves

The method:

Fill each bauble with one cinnamon stick, one nutmeg, a couple of star anise and a handful of clove. Tie the bauble at the top with the ribbon or tassels. And that’s it… Voila!

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Easy handmade Christmas gift ideas – candles in recycled jam jars

November 27, 2018
candles from recycled jam jars

In recent years I’ve become much more conscious about stuff: how much stuff I have and how much stuff I’m buying. I particularly feel this trigger at Christmas time when I’m also aware that I’m filling someone else’s life with things that they probably don’t want or need. However, I really love gift giving and treating people so I always make everyone in my family at least one handmade Christmas present.

I also think there is something really lovely about a handmade gift and knowing someone has given their time. In truth, handmade doesn’t tend to be cheaper when comparing to high street goods. One person on their own doesn’t have the buying power of a mass-market corporation. However, I try to buy organic and sustainable materials so I feel the quality is much better. I also try to reuse and recycle where I can with the hope that what I’m giving is more sustainable.

One of the handmade Christmas gifts I like to make is candles. The best bit is that it couldn’t be easier. There is a much more specialist way of making candles. However, I’ve found this to also produce really good results.

The easy handmade candle method

Candle making materials

Something to hold the candle in such as jam jars, vintage cups, spice jars, tins etc. Look for something that’s not too skinny as I find they collect soot otherwise.

Candle wax. I use soy wax.

Candle wicks. I bought a kit from Amazon similar to this one here which contains a wick holder. You can also prop it up with pens too.

Essential oils. I buy them from a shop called Baldwin’s.

Plastic jug

Stirrer. I use an old chopstick.

Microwave

Scissors or wick trimmer.

Directions 

  1. Wash each jam jar thoroughly and make sure they are properly dry. You can remove the residue label with baking soda and cooking oil.
  2. Stick the candle wick to the bottom of the jar. I use wicks with stickers. However, you can use a bit of melted wax or white tac. I tend to prod it down with the rubber end of a pencil.
  3. Keep the candle wick in place with the wick holder.
  4. I guesstimate how much candle wax to use and pour into the plastic jug. There is probably a much better way of doing this… However, you can always add more wax to the candle.
  5. Microwave at short intervals. The wax should be completely clear.
  6. I let it cool for a minute or so and then add in essential oils. You need a lot but no more than 8% of the wax, otherwise, it spoils. Stir thoroughly.
  7. Slowly pour the wax in. I tend to end just before the jar fastening.
  8. Leave to cool overnight.
  9. Trim the wick and voila, you have a candle.
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