Last week was a rough week for the kids, they are missing their dad. I've been doing so much writing about grief in my published work, that I've tended to focus on all the other happenings when writing in this space. I do think however, that an update is overdue. Once we have greeted in the New Year I will set about sharing some of those details with you, since as you know (if you've been visiting awhile) it's a topic I am very comfortable with and I fully believe it is healthy to keep sharing our process. We are coming up to the two year anniversary since Tuck was killed so perhaps I will plan that blog post to coincide. For now though, I'll talk about this past weekend.
We had intended to join in on a couple of parties, but after a week filled with many tears and cuddles we decided that laying low and being at home was instead the thing for us to do. It meant the Christmas songs went onto continuous play, stories were read from our basket of Christmas books - which incidentally is stowed away in the cupboard throughout the rest of the year until December 1st when all things Christmassy emerge around our home. And in between it all, a delightful amount of gift making unfolded.
Those that know me are well aware that I am a bonafide packaging flirt! Give me earth tones and brown paper with string, and my heart starts to go pitty-pat. Add a little whimsy or a few dried up dead things and I . am . gone! So, it hardly needs to be said that when it comes to making gifts I like them to look pretty too.
Generally, I always have a stash of supplies in the cupboard but a few weeks ago I grabbed some extra bits to bump up that stash without any solid plan as to which direction I was heading. As it turned out, by last week I still had no idea because I kind of felt like playing with all of it. So, come the weekend, that's just what I did.
** spoiler alert for anyone who may be on the receiving end of these gifts! I hope you like them ;) **
Small batches of each! First up was hand butter. I've made this recipe quite a few times now and not just for gifts. I make it to use on my own hands and keep a jar atop my bedhead - rubbing a little of it in each night is the very last thing i do before my head hits the pillow. I love the stuff! And making it is easy peasy. Click that link above and it will take you through to an older post from when I made it for the first time. All recipe details and The Prairie Homestead link-love can be found there.
Then there was bath salts, a calming blend with magnesium flakes, pink Himalayan rock salt and rose petals that I plucked off my mum's heritage bushes a few weeks ago. It's all been scented with a few drops of essential oils and one of the best bits about making these gifts is that I get to use the leftovers ;) I know many people who are not bath takers and at various times over the years we've had conversations about why that is so. Although it still baffles me as to why they feel such ways, they do all have valid reasons, ha, I'm sure they are baffled by many of my habits too. So anyway, these salts are not for them! I, on the other hand, and at the risk of over-sharing, am a bath taker. Not just that, I am a bath lover! So much so that having a bathroom with a bath ranks within my top three prerequisites when house hunting. I have actually walked away from perfectly lovely houses over the years simply because they did not have a bath. There was one house, once, that didn't have a bath and I pined every . single . day! I think Tuck got so sick of hearing me whine about the lack of bath that he swore we would never live without one again. All that aside, an evening soak is a constant for me. It is part of my end-of-day ritual and within that water there is often a mix of whatever I'm feeling like on any given day- salts, oils, bubbles, soap and many times, nothing at all. Lately it's been the leftovers from this batch of salts. Win win eh!? :)
Next on the list was the vanilla extract. Honestly, if you are taking notes for next year and want a gift that you can pull together in as little time as pouring out a drink, this is your answer! You don't even need to put a fancy label on it if you don't want to, and you don't need a apothecary bottle either. For my own stash, I use an old jam jar- a pretty jam jar, because I like all things pretty, but a jam jar nonetheless. Now I have done vanilla before, but this time I changed up the labels a bit. I bought a bottle of vodka way back in the middle of the year, added a heap of split vanilla beans to it and left it down in the cellar to do it's thing. At that point I wasn't sure whether I was going to follow through on decanting vanilla extract for Christmas gifts, but given it's soaking in alcohol, it never goes off so it does no harm to always have some at the ready.
And by the way, Avery craft labels and their online templates completely rock!
And finally, the candles. Oh the candles! I've decided that candle making is a lot harder than I thought it would be, I mean technically it's just a matter of melting the wax down with a double boiler and pouring it in, right? Well maybe I've missed something but, no, these candles were not quite that straight forward. I make tea-light candles with beeswax quite regularly as we use them for our nightly verse and 'light ceremony'. I knew if I wanted to try larger candles then I would have to get some suitable wicks that didn't drown in the thicker melt pool - I've learned that one the hard way before! Initially everything went to plan and all was well in my happy candle making bubble. I was even using my own hand-rendered beeswax, given to me ages ago by my friend and permaculture garden designer, Nadja. She passed it on after harvesting her honey and I then rendered it and have had the blocks in my stash cupboard to use for various projects ever since.
So I had my jars and I had a nice large square wick cut and positioned for each one. Once my wax was melted I added some essential oils. The fragrance of which will never ever be matched again since as I was adding the first couple of oils I decided I wasn't really achieving the "Summertime" scent I was going for, so I grabbed my whole supply box of oils and just kept adding and mixing all kinds of different ones until I liked what I got. It took a while and it took a lot of oils because the gorgeous sweet scent of honey in the wax kept distracting me. So then I poured it out and for the most part, things were still going smoothly, but then as the wax cooled it set with weird looking marks on the inside of the glass. I thought about covering it up with a wrap around label but that was going to be a pain so instead, I got my Fowlers water bath preserving unit out and thought I'd try to remelt the wax inside the jar so it would hopefully set again with more even tone. But then there was the wick, ah yes I'd forgotten that of course the wick would move about on me with the wax melting so quick smart I grabbed the little holder thingys I had and, all was well again, my plan was working!! Then crack! It was the unmistakable crack of glass. Argh! There were three jars in there, the water was boiling, the jars were hot and the wax was liquified. Plus I had those wicks to think about and I didn't want to go spilling wax all over my Fowlers, let alone anywhere else. So I did what any sensible, responsible person would do in my situation. I abandoned ship and went AWOL! I turned the heat off and walked away so they could cool down and reset in their own luxurious time.
Much later on, I returned and gently lifted the jars out- the wax had cooled and was just about set again by this stage. My Fowlers was still clean and it was time for me to find the crack - which jar and where was it? One by one I carried them to the table and on my second trip, plop! The entire base of the jar I was carrying dropped cleanly away and I was left holding the remainder. I tipped it upside down and the candle slid out as though the glass had simply been a mold. Then there was the third candle. I guess some of the water must have found it's way inside while it was simmering because I noticed the candle rattling within the jar as I moved it. So I tipped it up and just like candle number two, it plopped out into my hand, only save the broken jar this time. Humm, so out of three candles, only one is within it's jar as I had intended, but I think the other two are still okay to give as gifts, what do you think? None of them are perfect but a few little flaws won't matter just as long as they burn properly... (fingers crossed).
It's our last week of school this week and tonight we have Celebration Night. Summer finally seems to be kicking in with 36'C yesterday and again today. It's hot, but later on the whole school will gather; kids, parents and teachers, and songs will be sung by each class while the families sit around on picnic rugs or camp chairs with whatever yummies they've brought along in their baskets. Then just a few more days before a lunchtime break-up on Friday and then we three will welcome in a long Summer break. Yip yip yippy!!! The Australian school year is broken up into four terms spanning from late January to mid-December. For us this means six weeks of family fun in the sun and Christmas kicks it off!!! Then next year once school returns my littles will begin Grade 3 and Grade 1. Really? It's all happening in a blink, but I'm not going to think about that right now. There's Merry Making to be done!
Before I sign out for 2016, I will be back with one more post. It's something exciting that I want to share but I have to wait for some international mail first.
Happy days friends xo