September 23, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
I’m sharing today’s DIY project (actually an oldie but a goodie from way back in 2013), because it’s officially fall, which means in our house I’m about to go into candle burning mode in high gear. A few years ago I started making my own candles after dragging my feet for so long, convinced it was some super complicated process. Guess what? Making your own candles is really pretty simple, and today I am excited to share the process step-by-step with you again. (I’m sure this will be new to many of you and perhaps a welcome reminder to those of you who have been reading for a while to give this a try!) I am personally partial to making beeswax candles because they burn much cleaner than many other varieties of wax. Unlike paraffin wax which can really muck up you air quality, beeswax can even help purify the air in your home, and personally I really like the natural color and fragrance. You can customize the fragrance with essential oils and with the holiday season coming up, these homemade candles make great DIY gifts, too! So. Have I convinced you yet? Let’s get to candle making!
- Double-stick adhesive
- Essential oils (optional)
- Wax pouring pot
- Jars, metal tins or similar
Typically speaking, beeswax is quite widely available in one ounce or one pound blocks – you can find it at local craft stores or you can source it online, generally much cheaper. (Amazon has it at a really great price here!) For point of reference, three pounds of wax will give you an approximate yield of five of the smaller tart tin candles (shown here) and three mason jar candles. No matter how large your block of wax is you’ll want to first cut it down into smaller chunks. This will allow it to melt much more efficiently. A sharp knife of any kind will do the job here, although I don’t necessarily recommend anything serrated or you’ll grate the wax as you’re chunking it up which has the potential to result in quite a bit more waste.
Once your wax is in chunks, it’s time to start melting over a basic double boiler. I have a simple metal wax pouring pot (available at craft stores) but you could instead opt to use any heat-safe container (such as a glass Pyrex bowl), place it over a pot of water and then bring the water to a boil. Keep in mind that the wax is going to be tough to clean out of whatever container you use (thus why I opted to buy the pouring pot) so you don’t want to use anything you aren’t ok with being permanently relegated to candle making. You want to use a thermometer in conjunction with your double boiler and melt the wax until it reaches about 145° – a little warmer is ok, but try not to exceed 175°. While it’s melting, you should be prepping your containers!
You can definitely have fun playing around with different containers, but I personally love these tiny tart tins which make pretty perfect little candles. I’ve also found that mason jars or jam jars work well, or you could also experiment with any pretty glassware or tins you might already own, as long as it’s a material that can withstand the heat of the melted wax. (Which is why I knew tart tins and mason jars would work because both are designed to hold up to heat!) I opted to use pre-made wicks but you can also make your own. The pre-made wicks help keep things nice and simple, which is never a bad thing. You’ll need one wick per candle, which you’ll adhere to the bottom of your container using double-stick adhesive. Keep the wick long and hold it upright over your candle by wrapping the extra length around a skewer (or a pen or pencil…you get the idea) and propping the skewer up between two glasses or whatever else you have handy. Once your containers are prepped, place them on top of a sheet of parchment paper on a heat-resistant surface – I used a cutting board. (This just helps to protect your counters from the heat and any wax spills that may occur.)
When your wax is thoroughly melted, carefully pour it into your tins or jars, being cautious not to splash it on the container or yourself. (It is melted wax after all and it will hurt!) Don’t fill your containers completely – it looks nicer with a bit of extra room at the top! I found with larger candles (such as the mason jars) the wax shrink a bit as it cools so you’ll want to reserve a bit of unmelted wax so you can go back later, repeat the melting process and top off your candle with more wax so it looks nice and full. Then let the candles cool completely (overnight is best) and then trim your wicks so they’re roughly 1/2″ tall. And that’s it! You just made candles. And they’re awesome. (Truth. All of your friends will think so.)
If you are interested in scenting your candles (which is certainly optional because the beeswax has a rather subtle yet lovely natural fragrance that is really quite nice), you’ll want to add fragrance by way of essential oils once the wax is melted but prior to removing it from the heat. Here I used NOW essential oils which I scored at a local organic market. Simply add about 1 gram of oil per 1 pound of wax and give it a quick stir with a skewer. Remember this should be done while the wax is still over the heat, just prior to pouring it into your containers. You can add more or less depending on the level of fragrance you’d like and combine oils to suit your fragrance fancy. Lavender, eucalyptus and lemon are my personal favorites, sometimes all combined together!
This is still one of my favorite crafts to date. It is just so much simpler than you’d think, and it’s such a lovely way to add something homemade to your everyday home decor or to give to a sweet friend as a gift. I sincerely hope you give this a try sometime – you’ll be surprised how easy it is and how cool it feels to be all like, “Yeah, I just made candles.” Or maybe that’s just me. But either way, have fun and let me know if you give it a go!
[Art direction + styling by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion. | Photos by Alice G. Patterson.]
Candle making supplies from Michaels
Essential oils by NOW, purchased locally
Tart tins from Bed Bath & Beyond ($0.79 each)
Ball jars from Target
September 20, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
Yesterday morning I started the day on the phone with my dad discussing Thanksgiving. Bob and I are hosting this year because, frankly, we couldn’t hear of any other options with it being our first holiday season in our new home. With my huge family and his family combined, we will be serving up dinner for nearly 30 parents, siblings, nieces and nephews so two months out the preparations begin. Should we have a ham in addition to turkey? (Answer: Yes!) Who is doing the stuffing? (My mom. Always.) Do we have enough chairs? (Ummm…nope!) All of this talk about cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie got me digging through the real party archives where I uncovered five of my favorite, festive fall parties to share with you today. I’m sharing a few photos from each party, plus you can click any of the links to take you to the full feature. Ready, set, let’s party!
A seasonal harvest feast | Photos by Britt Chudleigh
An apple farm | Photos by Rachabella Photography
A pretty outdoor fall dinner party | Photos by Jessi Nichols Photography
A rustic farm dinner on the farm | Photos by Veronica Lola Photography
September 19, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve finally started to pluck away at the puzzle that is decorating our living room. When I shared my general inspiration for our living room decor, I mentioned that since our initial living room renovation (removing 3+ layers of wallpaper, fixing the walls, painting every square inch of wall and trim, removing the 40+ year old carpet), the room pretty much has stood as is all summer. As of this week I have ordered these curtains (an amazing price for the 108″ panels we need to accommodate our super high ceilings) and I’m pretty sure I’ve settled on a rug. I am loving the super simple pattern and the darker navy color for hiding stains. (We have kids, folks! Stains are real.) I still need to finalize a decision on what we’re going to do with the sofa situation. Do one sofa and a couple of arm chairs? Do a larger L-shaped sectional? I want to maximize seating, but I also don’t have a $4,000,000 budget so I am eyeing the IKEA Kivik because of it’s simple, modern shape, the cool blocky arms and the price tag. Again, kids. I get that it might not last for 10 years, but what are the chances I still like a sofa ten years from now anyway? Precisely zero, friends. At any rate, here’s my current living room decor mood board. Any thoughts? Anyone own a Kivik with feedback to share? Chime in! Cold weather is coming and I need this place ready for cozy nights in front of a good movie.
[1: Going for a Swim art print | 2: Light in Dark art print | 3: IKEA Kivik sectional | 4: Oak tripod floor lamp | 5: Graffiti print curtains | 6: Cow bookends | 7: Half and half floor bins | 8: Arm chair | 9: Diamond trellis rug]
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September 14, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
This is the time of year, where after months of nonstop heat and humidity, I can’t wait for the air to get a little cooler so I can turn on my oven. I’m one of those rare birds who loves to bake as much as I love to cook (it seems most people prefer one over the other), and the first tease of fall has me itching to bake cookies. Pronto. Specifically, I’ve just decided that I’m craving chocolate chip cookies this week so I thought I should consider trying out a new recipe. Over the weekend I was baking chocolate cheesecake for a dear friend’s birthday. Apparently today it’s onto cookies! Don’t judge. In case anyone else has the baking itch, I’ve rounded up 15 of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes. Several of them actaully even claim to be the best! As always, I made a good faith effort to include a few vegan, gluten-free and paleo options here, too. And if you want to know what I keep on hand for impromptu baking sessions, you can consult my handy list of baking pantry essentials.
1. Milk bar’s salted chocolate chip cookies [above]
2. The best soft chocolate chip cookies
3. The best vegan chocolate chip cookies
4. Paleo coconut flour chocolate chip cookies
5. The best soft chocolate chip cookies
6. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
7. Salted caramel chocolate chip cookies
8. Perfect chewy chocolate chip cookies
9. Chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
10. Oatmeal zucchini chocolate chip cookies
11. Toasted almond chocolate chip cookies
12. The best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies
13. Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies
14. Double dark chocolate chip cookies
15. Peanut butter chocolate chip bar cookies
September 7, 2016 | by Cyd Converse
I know, I know, that fall drum is going to be beaten a lot around here and on every other blog in the universe in the next few weeks, but can we talk about one of my favorite fall things for a moment? Catching up on my favorite shows and discovering new ones! Is that completely boring? Do I have an utterly unexceptional existence? Yup. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I like it that way. After a busy, hectic summer full of run-run-run sometimes I just like to sit-sit-sit. After months of rarely, if ever, even turning the television on in our house, sometimes it honestly feels fun and new to cozy up for a serious Netflix binge come fall. In honor of all things couch potato, my sister and I teamed up today to share our go-to Netflix watch list picks. The newer things, the oldie but goodie things, all the television watching things. Should you feel so inclined as to feed our joint addictions, chime in with your favorites, too! I’m always down for a good Netflix binge session when the weather is cool. (Oh and FYI, we both are basically obsessed with everything on each other’s lists, too, so consider this a pretty comprehensive list of all the best shows currently streaming on Netflix!)