Monday, 20 October 2014

How to Make Soy Wax Candles with Essential Oils

It turns out it's Autumn, folks. Yes, it's time for clocks to go forward, for the daylight to shorten, time to pull on our heavier coats and break out the thick socks and jumpers. As much as I'm much more a fan of summer and warm balmy weather, there is one thing I really love about the season. I can light candles. In the height of summer, it doesn't get dark here until nearly 10:30pm but once Autumn comes, the days shorten and soon, I'm lighting them as soon as I'm home from work. As you can imagine, we get through a lot of candles during Autumn and Winter.

Now, you may know that every once in a while I like to mess around a bit with making my own STUFF. I've made my own soap, beauty products and most recently, a fragrance diffuser. Well, I decided to try my hand at making my own soy wax candles, fragranced with essential oils.

Dudes. Let me tell you something.



There is something rather therapeutic about making your own products. And while there are few different ways to make candles (all following roughly the same idea), I like to take my time and engross myself in it, consider carefully the essential oil combinations I'm going to use, give myself a good few hours to mess around in the kitchen and really enjoy the fruits of my labour.

This one is Geranium and Lemongrass - the smell is divine, a lovely combination of floral and citrus.

The two gold ones are Rosemary and Peppermint. An earthy herbal scent with a little bit of zing in the top notes.

And finally, the last one is a truly Autumn scent - Cinnamon and Orange.

I love the glow when they are collected together but you want to make sure your fragrances mix well when you do this. They do emit a nice light scent but if you want a much stronger scent, then I would increase the volume of essential oils you use.

So the first thing I did was a little research and purchased a few things that I knew I would need for this project.

Here's what you're going to need:

Containers: You can really use anything vaguely candle holder shaped in glass or ceramic - I used 2 gold spray-painted glass tumblers (in fact, that's a DIY as well, found here), a small bowl from Anthropologie and a taller green glass candle holder I've had for a while. I've seen a lot of people use vintage teacups too which is also a rather nice look.

Soy wax flakes: You can use paraffin wax for this as well but soy wax supposedly burns cleaner and longer and I like pure white candles which soy wax will give you instead of the creamy colour of paraffin. The other benefit is clean up - soy wax cleans pretty easily. I've used beeswax for other things (lip balm) and it is a total bitch to clean so while I don't have experience of using paraffin, it may be similar in that sense. So soy wax works really well because candles can be pretty messy business.

Essential oils:  Now, there are fragrances you can buy specifically for candle making. Apparently, they will give a stronger fragrance in soy wax than essential oils will. However, I do like using essential oils as they are organic and I feel better about having natural oils burning rather than some synthetic chemical smell. But that's just me, again the choice is yours. (I prefer Tisserand as a brand if you are looking for a recommendation - the scents are really potent, organic and in certain cases, ethically harvested.)

Candle wicks:  I purchased a set of candle wicks that come with the small metal bit on the bottom to make them easier to attach to the bottom of your candle. Do you need to have these? Not necessarily, it just makes your candle a little more professional. If you don't want to spend the money on wicks with the attached metal bottom, you can just tie a knot on the bottom and set it like that. Again, up to you.

Glue dots: I had mixed success with gluing my wicks to the bottom. I do know that using a hot glue gun doesn't work because the hot wax will just heat up the glue rendering it useless. The glue dots seemed to work well in the more shallow containers but not so great in the taller ones. They aren't expensive so I suppose it's worth a try if you are using something like teacups but perhaps not if you want to make something much larger.

Ok, now that you have all your supplies, here's how it's done...

First attach your glue dot to the underside of the metal bit of your wick. I found it easiest to attach it here first and then just stick it down to the middle of the container, pressing it down with my finger (rather than attaching the glue to the bottom of the container first).  Once you have all your wicks attached, you just want to straighten the wicks so they stand straight and tall and upright. The location of your wick is important to ensure the candle burns evenly.

Now, you want to measure out your wax flakes. The formula is very simple. Fill your container with the wax flakes to about an inch or so from the top of the container, dump it into your glass bowl and then do it again. The solid wax reduces to approximately half the volume once it's melted. So to find out how much solid wax you'll need, simply fill the container and then double it.

I used a bain marie to melt my wax down. Now, there are tutorials online that tell you that you can melt it in a microwave. And yes, you can. But how your candle burns once it's solid again is related very much to the temperature it is when you pour it into the container. And I don't like the idea of not being able to control the temperature or 'boiling' the wax by accident in the microwave. Besides, making products like this is therapeutic to me... so watching the flakes slowly turn to liquid as you move it around in the bowl is rather nice. Maybe that's just me but it feels a bit more 'pure' (is that the right word?) to melt it like that. Again, your choice.

The wax doesn't take too long to reduce to fully reduce to liquid. Once all the wax is melted, remove the bowl from the bain marie (use oven gloves, the glass gets hot! Safety first, people.) and set it down to cool for a couple of minutes.

Once it's cooled a bit (but still in it's liquid state), you can add your essential oils.  The reason you don't want to add them to the melted wax immediately is that the high heat will reduce the scent of your oils so letting the temperature drop slightly will ensure your candles smell lovely when they burn. I used about 50 drops for the smaller bowl container and 100 drops for the larger ones. The combinations I chose were: geranium and lemongrass (50% each pink bowl), cinnamon orange (green container) and rosemary and peppermint (60% rosemary to 40% peppermint) in the 2 gold ones. Again, they give off a lovely light scent but if you really want something more powerful, simply increase the amount of essential oils you use.

Mix the essential oils well into the melted wax and then carefully pour into your container.

The wick stayed nice and upright in the shallow bowl but not as well in the taller containers so I used a couple of fragrance diffuser reeds to hold them in place because I had those to hand but you can use a pencil or a chopstick or whatever you need. It's just to balance the wick while the wax dries.

Give the candles 24 hours to fully set and then you can light and enjoy them. And THAT'S IT.

I am going to make a few this year for Christmas gifts! Is this a DIY you would try? I'd love to know if you've made your own as well and what fragrance combinations are your favourites so please do weigh in if this is something you've done yourself!

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Friday, 17 October 2014

Shop in the Spotlight: Autumn Living Room at George at Asda

Well, I think I'm going to regain my little tiara for "pretty on the cheap" today because you can't get better bargain buys for the home than this. I have to say, I have been more and more impressed with George at Asda over the last couple of years. Their items have become more on trend, more stylish and always super affordable.

So when they asked if I would be happy to put together a little Autumn living room post, I knew it would be a breeze. In fact, I had a hard time narrowing my choices. In the end, I decided to stick to a fairly neutral base, perfectly warm and textural for Autumn, with some fun bold cushions and metallics in the mix to keep things interesting.

While you might not want to change out all of your decor every season (I mean, that get's pretty expensive), a change in a few accessories is always nice to warm things up after the brights and pastels of the summer. So incorporating some faux fur and heavier, darker pieces that aren't going to break the budget are a great way to do this.

Keeping it a bit eclectic, I quite love that Phrenology head (I've wanted one for ages) and pairing it with an unexpectedly glamorous gold metal tray could be fun - with both priced under £20, you really can't go far wrong. And I don't quite know what it is about the Horse ornament - it could go a little old fashioned in the wrong hands but if you mix it with the right environment, I reckon it'd be a very cool touch of masculinity in a space. Grounding everything with a dark graphite sofa with tufting (for under £500!), there's no reason why you can't have a cool space even if you are on a tight budget.

Any favourites of what I've chosen? Have you shopped George lately? Are you as surprised as I am at the cool mix of items available? Do you make any changes to your decor when the weather turns?

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Disclaimer: This post is in association with George at Asda but of course, all opinions and words are absolutely always my own. Thanks so much for supporting the brands that support Swoon Worthy!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

This is me, Age 41: My Skincare Routine

This is such a total tangent for me to be talking about on my blog today. I'm certainly not a beauty blogger, no one wants to see me prancing around in the latest fashions and this will not be an on-going series. So please don't fret. Normal interior design posts will resume shortly.

However, I had such an overwhelming response to talking about my age on this post (just look at the comments - and they were no different on Twitter or Facebook) that I just thought, well f*ck it. If you want to talk about it, then why not. Plus, my head was swollen for days after that. I don't think I was able to leave the house as it wouldn't fit through the door.

So as weird as I feel about writing about this today (does this make me vain? am I coming across as smug? These things I am still not entirely sure of and are certainly not my intention), I thought I would bust through my insecurity and I hope you guys don't think I'm an idiot for doing so.

So! Anyway. My age. Yes, despite reports to the contrary, I am 41 years old. Soon to be 42, in fact, come my birthday in January. Do I enjoy being in my 40's? Honestly? Not really. I mean, I don't feel any differently than I did 10 years ago. Would I prefer to just stay permanently in my early to mid 30's? Hell yeah. But that's life, it moves on whether you want that clock to keep ticking or not. So best make the most of what you have while you have it.

Yes that's me in a very fetching towel turban. I clearly have makeup on. You will not see me without it. Sorry to disappoint. But otherwise, the picture has not been altered at all, there are no filters, no Photoshop. I guess people expect to have a lot of wrinkles or uneven skin tone by the time they are my age? Who knows. I suppose my skin is pretty line free except for my forehead (and I've had those since I was in my early 20's) and a few light lines under my eyes. But so far, time hasn't been too unkind to me.

(Also can we talk about that bra? It's white, it's not grey. Why does it look so grey and dingy in the picture? What the heck? Anyway, yeah, just rest assured that it looks worse in that pic. I mean, I do have dingy bras, don't we all - but I wasn't wearing one for this shot. Dammit.)

Now for me, I will preface all of this by saying that I have always looked young for my age. I guess I have my mum to thank for that (she also looked young for her age). So genetics I think plays a huge part in all of this. Some of us have fabulously long legs, some of us have short stumpy ones (holds up hand), some of us get blessed with naturally slim figures, some of us have to work our asses off just to stay within some magic number on the scale (I would be the latter in that regard as well). In terms of looking a bit younger, maybe I just got lucky, I don't know.

What I do know is that at age 20, when I looked about 12 years old, I hated it. I hated getting carded at every establishment when I was well past the legal drinking age every time I wanted an adult beverage. I hated feeling like I wasn't taken seriously at work because I looked like a kid. I hated it for a long time.

Now? I admit, it's a lot different. I love when people's jaws drop when I tell them my age (I don't lie about it, what's the point?). And erm, yeah, I get that reaction a lot. I would be lying if I didn't say it was nice to hear. I have been told that I "act young" which I think is just another word for immature (ahem). I mean, I like to laugh (a lot) and be silly, I don't really take life too seriously and I still listen to lots of new (indie) music which I think surprises my hip, younger colleagues. Although my days of going to listen to live music every weekend is long gone, it's something that I still enjoy and always have.  I don't have children. I think that probably helps too because for the most part (bar early morning kitty activity), I actually get to sleep properly and always have done. Oh and I have an eyebrow piercing. I've had it since 1999. It's part of my face, I forget about it. I don't even know if it's trendy or what any more and I don't care. I like it.

Some disclaimers... I drink alcohol. I'm not a huge binge drinker or anything but I do like a bottle of wine at the weekend and maybe a few mixed drinks too. I was also a light-medium smoker for 10 years (I'm not any more). Neither of these are particularly good for your skin but I did them both. Proceed at your own risk on those ones. Maybe I'd still look 22 instead of 32 if I'd avoided both, who knows.

However, I will also say this - and it's another thank you really for my mum - because she instilled in me at a very young age to take care of my skin. And I do take care of my skin.

I don't use a lot of different products and I don't use hugely expensive lotions and potions. I used inexpensive products for YEARS and they did me no harm at all. I've upgraded some of those since I turned 40 (a little treat to myself) but I'll share some of my budget buys as well with you. It's a real mix, not unlike my home ;)

So here's my number one tip that you will read everywhere but please please pay attention.

Always, always wash your face before going to bed. That's it. I don't care if you've had a late one and you are just too tired. I have had nights where I have literally crawled up the stairs in a drunken stupor, barely able to stand (don't judge me) and somehow still managed to take my makeup off before collapsing into bed. It was engrained in me and I have done this since I was a teenager. I always wash my makeup off. You don't want your old makeup smeared across your face, clogging your pores. Your skin needs that vital sleep to repair itself. And if you do skip it one night, that makeup is now all stuck to your pillow. And the next night, you are smashing your nice clean face into a pillow that has crap all over it. Just don't do it. WASH YOUR FACE. Your skin will thank you for it.

Here's tip number 2...

If you don't already use an anti-ageing moisturiser, start now. I started using anti-ageing creams at age 24, long before I ever needed them. It hasn't done me any harm. Maybe it's done me good (preventative?) but I have always used them.

So my skin care routine....

I have normal skin. Sometimes it's a little dry (winter), sometimes it's a little oily (summer) and I will adjust my skin care based around those times but for the most part, it just sits there doing nothing in particular. I did however suffer from breakouts between the ages of 21-27. It was hell. And then, I turned 28 and my skin cleared. I have no idea why. Hormones I guess. That probably doesn't help anyone who is suffering through this and I'm sorry but sometimes it just takes time. I still get the occasional spot but I'm more concerned about wrinkles these days.

In the evenings, I use Johnson's Face Care Wipes. With one fell swoop, all my makeup is gone and my skin just feels really refreshed. I have used a lot of other skin care wipes from very inexpensive to very expensive and I always go back to these ones. I've tried all kinds of other makeup removers as well and nothing beats these in my opinion. At around £3.50 per pack, they aren't the cheapest so when they are on offer (you can often get 3 for 2 bargains at Boots), I tend to stock up. I find these remove my make up with very little effort (I use two wipes). I simply rinse my skin afterwards with warm (not hot, not cold) water.

And then I apply moisturiser. Clinique Youth Surge SPF15 (£44 for 50ml) is my favourite at the moment and I've been using it for a little over a year. There's very little fragrance, it's absorbed quickly and my skin feels perfectly nourished after using it. I use it everywhere except the eye area.

For the eye area, I started using Yves Saint Laurent Forever Youth Liberator Eye Cream recently and I really like it. It's expensive (£48 for 15ml) but I could definitely see a brightening of the eye area and it just feels really lovely on your skin.

Back to bargain buys, instead of using the Clinique's Youth Surge, I will sometimes use Nivea Q10 Plus Anti-Wrinkle Nightcream (£10 for 50ml) but I tend to only use it when my skin is feeling a little dry (like in the winter when heating has been on all day) and only on my face (not around my eyes) because it just goes on pretty thick and I don't like anything that feels like my skin is heavy or sticky. However, if you need more moisture and are looking for something inexpensive, this will do the trick.

In the morning, I wash my face with warm water, pat it dry with a towel and then use the Clinique's Youth Surge all over my face (including my eyes even though you are probably not supposed to but it works for me and it feels quite light going on). I don't use any other cleansers as I find they leave my skin too dry - so just water and moisturiser and I'm good to go.

However (and this is important if you are young and broke), I used Nivea Q10 Plus Anti-Ageing Day Cream (£10 for 50ml) for a good 15 years prior to the Clinque one. It's inexpensive and it did me just fine for years. I used it all over my face, day and night.

If you want another bargain buy, I've also used Aldi's Lacura Q10 moisuriser which honestly, I can't tell the differnce between this and Nivea's product and it only costs £3. Seriously - if you are on a budget, get down to Aldi because this stuff is incredible for the price (and it's done surprisingly well in reviews and trials).

I used to occasionally use an exfoliator but I haven't really done that too much of late. Now, after I wash my face at night when it's still wet, I will use a soft dry towel to gently exfoliate my skin. It shouldn't leave your skin red or irritated, just pink and glowing.

So as you can see, I don't have an extensive regime. Just consistent. Moisturise day and night and always clean my face. That's it. Pretty simple, no?

What's your skin care routine like? What do you think of this weird post about skin care stuck in the middle of an interiors blog? Is it okay if I very occasionally go off in a tangent? Or would you prefer for me to stick to interiors? Again, I have no intention of turning this into a lifestyle blog really but do you mind the occasional foray into other subjects?

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