Archive of ‘Decorating’ category

Candle Making Is My New Obsession and It Can Be Yours Too

I love candles, but they can be so expensive. On a recent trip to California, I learned how to make my own candles. I can’t believe how fast, easy and inexpensive it is! If you can boil water and place an online order, you too can make candles.

Candle-Making

Where to Stock Up on Candle Making Supplies

First you need to gather your candle making supplies. Don’t you dare step one foot into your local Michael’s unless you get a sick satisfaction from overpaying for a terribly limited selection. If you are in the Los Angeles area, definitely take a trip to General Wax in North Hollywood. For the rest of us, they also offer online ordering. And since my town’s one coffee shop is only open 16 hours a week, you probably aren’t surprised that there is no candle making supply store here!

The outside of this place is totally nondescript and its business name doesn’t match the building, but this place is the answer to all of your candle making prayers, of which I am sure you have many. Inside, there is a wide assortment of pre-made candles (we’re not here for those!), wax, wicks, scents, supplies, containers and more… basically everything you desperately need to make candles.

Candle Making Store

Candle Making Shopping List

Here is a list of basic supplies needed to make your candles. Each item links to what I’ve used with success, though there are other brick and mortar stores and tons of other places online to order supplies. Even Amazon.com offers candle making supplies.

  • Melting Pot
  • Candy thermometer
  • Scale
  • Large Pot (to create a double boiler for the melting pot)
  • Candle wax. (I use soy wax flakes that come in a 5 lb bag. This should make you about 10-12 medium sized candles)
  • Wicks (choose the size based on the diameter of your candle)
  • Scent (optional, but why would you make a candle if you don’t want it to smell yummy? You’ll use about 1 oz per pound of wax)
  • Dyes (optional)
  • Wick Bars (they are just popsicle sticks with holes drilled in the center)
  • Glue Dots or a glue gun
  • Stir Stick or wooden spoon
  • Containers (This is the best part! The linked containers are only $0.69 each, but there are many other creative and inexpensive options)

Heaven in a Fedex box:

Candle Making Supplies

The Cost

It’s very inexpensive! First, you will need to assemble your candle making laboratory with the purchase of your basic kit of supplies — melting pot, thermometer and scale — which shouldn’t set you back more than about $30. The best part about this purchase is it’s a one time thing, as these supplies can be used in perpetuity of your candle making career. And if you actually use your kitchen for things other than candle making or cocktail mixing, you may already own the scale and thermometer. The pour spout on the melting pot is key, so don’t skimp by trying to get by with a regular pot.

For about $45, you can get everything else (wax, wicks, scent, dye, containers etc.) that you need to make about 10-12 candles in the 8-10 ounce range (you can make more or less depending on how large or small your containers are), with some leftover materials. Compare that to how much you would spend on the same number of pre-made candles!

Container Inspiration

Selecting your containers lets you customize your candles in fabulous ways. This is my favorite part of candle making! You can make candles in any glass, metal or ceramic containers you can find. Look around your home to see what you might already have. Cocktail glasses, candy jars, and tins are all contenders. Check out the bric-à-brac section at your local Salvation Army or discount stores like T.J. Maxx for inexpensive options. If you start making candles you will literally ponder the candle making container potential of every single object you come across.

And if you want to get fancy, there are endless vintage options! Check out some containers from Etsy that would make great candle containers:

Vintage_Candle_Making_Containers

1. green pyrex 2. ball jars 3. cocktail glasses 4. milk glass candy jar

Scents

You can pretty much make your candle smell like anything you want– even Cookies for Santa! There are so many options–fruity, flowery, sweet–the options seem endless. Just make sure your scents are specially formulated for candles so you get a good strong scent when burning your candles. Again, General Wax is my go to place for scents. There are so many options, in a variety of sizes and at great prices!

Measure

Once you’ve got your supplies gathered together, the fun begins! This whole process from start to finish should take about 30 minutes.

Candle-Making-Measure

Take your kitchen scale and weigh the melting pot. Then, add wax until you reach one pound plus the weight of the melting pot. The soy wax comes in flakes and is easy to measure. So, in my case I added wax until the scale measured 24.5 ounces (8.5 oz melting pot + 16 oz wax = 24.5 oz). You can make smaller or larger batches as desired.

Melt

Candle_Making_MeltYou can use any large pot to create a double boiler for the melting pot. Place the melting pot in your larger pot and add water until the pot is almost full. Turn the burner on to high. Attach the thermometer to the side of the melting pot so it descends into the wax and you are in business! Turn down the temperature when the water begins to boil out of control. No need to cause any third degree burns while candle making.

Container Prep

While the wax is starting to melt, you can prep your containers.

Prep Candle Making Containers

Start by affixing the wicks to the bottom of the containers so they remain in place when the melted wax is poured. You can use glue dots or a glue gun to accomplish this. Try to center the wick as much as possible at the bottom of the container, so your candle burns evenly.

Then, take use the wood wick bar to stabilize the wick. Thread the wick through the hole in the wick bar and let it rest on the top sides of the candles. It works great to bend the wick over the wick bar so the wick is taut.

Stir In Dyes and Scents

Stir in Dyes & Scents

Check back on your wax to see how it’s coming. You want it fully melted and about 175-200 degrees Fahrenheit before you add the dye and then the scent. There are lots of opinions online about the perfect temperatures, so you might need to experiment a little with the supplies you’ve chosen. My candles turn out perfect when I heat the wax to 200 degrees, then take the wax off the heat before adding any dye and scent. The wax will begin to cool slowly, and by the time I’m done mixing in the dye and scent the wax is at a good temperature to pour.

Go ahead and add your dye and stir thoroughly until it is completely combined. If you prefer a nice, milky white color skip the dye.

Now, add your scent. Measure about one ounce per pound of wax; you can add a little more or a little less depending on how strong you want your candle to smell. Just don’t go overboard. Stir, stir, stir to be sure it’s fully incorporated into the melted wax.

Pour

Pour Candle Wax

You’re almost done! Pour the wax into each of your containers. If you’re super perfectionist about it, you might want to keep a little extra to do a second pour once your candles cool. It’s common with soy candles for the wax to settle a little. This second pour will ensure that you have a nice flat top. But you’re going to burn the candles anyway, so I don’t bother with that fussiness.

Poured Candles

Here is a batch of candles after they have cooled. Once they are fully cooled, you can remove the wick bars and trim the wicks.

Congratulations! You have now earned your degree in candle making!

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Change is Hard or What to Do If Your Coffee Shop Is Only Open 16 Hours a Week

Change is hard.

All while pondering, plotting and putting into action this cross country move, I knew making this change would not be easy. After all, I was moving from Los Angeles, a sprawling, insanely large metropolitan city where most of my friends reside, to a tiny (pop. <1,500), rural town in upstate New York to live near my dad who I met only a year ago.

My town is beautiful and quaint. There’s no traffic or wait times at restaurants. Typical city sounds, like helicopters, police sirens and honking cars, are non-existent. Nature is everywhere; trees, mountains and animals abound. I’ve seen deer, wild turkeys and rabbits without trying. The fall colors really are as amazing as they say. It takes approximately two minutes to get from one end of town to the other, so running errands in town is so easy. I laugh when people say they are going “downtown”.

A quiet fall morning before it got too cold to sit with the windows open:

Fall Colors

I have been able to see my dad just about every day since arriving in New York. And that is priceless after missing out on so many years. This experience feels like a luxury after spending the past year building a relationship with my dad via Skype and the occasional visit.  Moving here has made things possible that could never have worked via Skype, like my dad teaching me how to change the brake pads on my car or collaborating with him on how to refinish a piece of furniture.

Here we are in St. Louis while driving across country from Los Angeles to New York.

St. Louis

At the same time it can feel lonely and isolating here, especially when it’s cold and snowy. Now that winter has stolen the leaves from the trees, I miss the reliable palm trees of Southern California. The wind often howls and blows so hard that the three-story building I live in shakes, feeling like an earthquake. If there’s something I need that can’t be purchased at Rite Aid, the grocery store or the dollar store, it’s a 30 mile drive or longer. To visit friends I’ve known for what seems like forever, I can’t simply brave traffic on the 101, now I have to get on a plane. I am homesick for my friends at Camp Laurel and can’t believe I am about to miss my first camp in 10 years.

There have been ups and downs, but nothing could prepare me for a lack of lattes.

Coffee Nightmares

If you are a city dweller, you might scoff at the idea that there could be a lack of lattes available in my town. I present to you the following evidence from the one coffee shop in town:

CoffeShopHours

For those of you have not been able to do the math yet because you’re still stuck on the fact that Saturday and Sunday are not even listed, this coffee shop is open for a grand total of 16 hours per WEEK, with the vague possibility that you might get lucky at other times. I think most coffee shops in the city are open almost that long every single day. This simply would’t do. I had to figure out a way to support my latte addiction. I have a cheap espresso machine, but let’s just say the results are less than stellar.

As with packing and moving, this led to extensive research. It was a dark hole of endless googling and reading (such as this, this, and this) and successive scouring of reviews at amazon.com.

The Chosen Ones: Capresso Infinity and Bialetti Moka Express

The thing I’ve learned about good coffee is that it basically takes a trifecta of fabulous– you need good beans, a good grinder, along with a decent coffee machine. I’ll get to the beans, but I’ll start with the grinder and coffee maker.

For great coffee, you need a burr grinder, which crushes the beans into a consistent grind, rather than a blade grinder that just mangles the beans into an inconsistent mess. With the blade grinder, your coffee will suffer. The blade grinder causes even more havoc on your coffee, as it produces excessive heat as you keep grinding away at the beans. Then you get burnt tasting coffee. Yuck. Burr grinders range in price from under $100 to the thousands of dollars. I went with an entry level burr grinder, the Capresso Infinity, mainly because I am not making true espresso (more on that in a minute), which requires a very fine grind that is impossible to get from a grinder that costs less than several hundred dollars.

Now for the coffee machine! I wanted something easy and relatively inexpensive, but that delivered nirvana in a cup. And good espresso machines are expensive, like thousands of dollars expensive.

I decided on the Bialetti Moka Express partly because it seemed unbreakable, which is a necessity in my kitchen where nothing is safe. It was designed in the 1930s, and I liked its sense of history. Its design is so classic that the original blueprints are on display at the Design Museum in London. The Bialetti is often referred to as a stovetop espresso maker, and while that isn’t quite accurate, it does produce very strong, espresso style coffee. It comes in different sizes, and I chose the 3-cup version which makes the equivalent of three shots.

It couldn’t be easier to use and at under $25, I could not possibly resist the Bialetti’s charm.

Bialetti_Collage

It’s so easy:

1. Fill the bottom until you reach the valve on the side.

2. Insert the filter

3. Fill filter with ground coffee.

4. Screw the top back on.

5. Heat on the stove top. Water from the bottom container is somehow magically pushed through the filter into the top container. Voila! You have coffee.

I use my cheap espresso maker to steam the milk to make fabulous lattes. When I’m lazy, I make an Americano by just adding hot water. I am ⅔ of the way to coffee heaven.

The problem now, of course, is that I lack access to great beans in my town. I could do the mail order thing, but it gets expensive with shipping. So, now I’m thinking of roasting my own beans, which you can do in a popcorn popper!

What do you think? Should I take the roasting road to further my search for coffee nirvana?

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Do You Need a Rooster?

Now, when I ask that question, I am not referring to a farm animal. Rather, I am wondering if you need a ceramic rooster with a piece missing from its comb (Me being a city girl, I had to use Google to figure out what that red thing is called) painted by my great grand mother in 1973? He’s a beauty, right?! I am begging someone to adopt him!

Do You Need a Rooster?

You have to understand, I’m in a perilous place. I have to move all of my belongings in about three weeks in my cross country move, and I can’t take everything. And it’s not like this rooster fellow is my only problem. I have MANY other hand painted ceramics that I inherited after my mom died. So, some things, like this ceramic rooster, have to go.

Now, you might be wondering, “How many hand painted ceramic pieces could you possibly have?!” Well, more than you would imagine. My great-grandmother was a prolific ceramic painter extraordinaire long before Color Me Mine was a thing.

The Keepers

Some of these ceramic masterpieces will stay with me, such as this nativity scene, which was carefully unwrapped every year and displayed by the Christmas tree:

IMG_9276

I love this nativity scene for so many reasons. It was on display every Christmas growing up, so it holds a lot of nostalgia. But it has a couple of irregularities that make it even more amazing. Inexplicably, my grandma painted four wise men and displayed them all each year. Her explanations never made much sense. I think she just got carried away with painting the wise men and their brightly colored outfits. There are also two baby Jesus options, with one looking like a creepy old man baby. Can you guess which one?

Two Baby Jesuses

On The Chopping Block

Getting back to the rooster and his many friends… Take a gander:

Do_You_Need_A_Rooster_Collage

I saved them because they were like priceless family heirlooms with their own unique memories. Still, I recognized their tacky elegance, so rather than display them (as if!), I stored them in the nether regions of my closets for many years, while never crossing the Carrie Bradshaw line of storing them in an oven. Now, as I evaluate them in the broad daylight of a cross country move, I realize anything that has remained so hidden cannot be nearly as valuable as I thought. I will let them go, so as to make the ones I do keep even more meaningful.

Would you keep any of the above ceramics? See one you like? I would happily gift it to you!! Each one is signed by the artist.

Packing for a Big Move Is Better Than Burning Your House Down

Most days I’d rather throw a lit match into my apartment than deal with carefully packing all of my stuff. While that may be the quickest approach, it isn’t the most productive. So, I’ve resigned myself to the sorting and packing process. With 3,000 miles to travel, I need to find a way to ensure my vintage barware, ceramic poodles, Millie, the buppy (yes, she is half baby/half puppy and no, she is not creepy), and other treasures survive intact.

Millie

As I am apt to do, I’ve done some obsessive Google research on packing best practices and present to you some of the fruits of my research.

Moving Boxes & Bins for Packing

Cardboard boxes are great for packing anything not super fragile or sentimental, such a books and DVDs. The absolute best prices are found at Home Depot. You will overspend by copious amounts at U-Haul, Amazon, or basically any other place. Sure, you can get free boxes at the grocery store, but don’t come crying to me when your moving truck opens to reveal a hot mess of collapsed boxes. I’ve read plenty of cautionary tales online! Sturdy boxes in uniform sizes allow for easy stacking and prevent any leaning towers that lead to tradgedy.

IMG_9137

For the really special things, like family photos or fragile items, plastic bins are best. They stack better than boxes, while preventing dents and water damage. Better yet, no assembly is required! The only downside to plastic bins is their price. I looked everywhere for an affordable 18-gallon storage bin (a great size, not too big and not too small), but most options were just crazy expensive considering I need about 20! However, Wal-Mart delivers the best price on plastic bins– a pack of eight for $39.76… that’s just $4.97 each! Crazy. I’m not typically a Wal-Mart shopper, but in this instance I made the trek to buy these bins.

IMG_9146

Packing Material

Now you are going to need some serious packing material. Not just stuff to wrap your breakables in, but to cushion things that can be damaged. Bubble wrap is great, but it’s expensive if you actually buy enough for a full move. Packing material can be 100% totally FREE!

You can use many of the items you are already planning to pack, including blankets, pillows, clothing and fabric. Basically, anything soft and cushiony makes a great packing material. Don’t waste space packing these items together when they can be used as packing material.

And, if you’re like me and work in an office, you probably have access to a heavy duty shredder. The one in my office would shred your fingers if you stuck them in there. Don’t try that. I collect and hoard every single piece of paper not needed in the office to save for shredding. I now have shreds for days! You can probably accomplish this with a shredder you have at home; it might just take more time. The criss-cross shredders only give you confetti, so they won’t be helpful. You need thick shreds like these that provide lots of cushion.

IMG_9138

In addition, save any packing materials that come from online orders. Places like Staples and Amazon include those inflated balloon-like packing materials in most orders. Save your newspapers or ask a friend who subscribes for their old newspapers. Lastly, check the free section on Craigslist, where you can find people giving away bubble wrap and packing paper. You can score free boxes on Craigslist as well, but I prefer to purchase mine so I am in control of the exact sizes and shapes of my boxes to create ideal stacking conditions in the moving truck.

Packing Boxes & Bins

Cardboard boxes should be packed so they are completely and totally filled to prevent the lid from bowing under the weight of items stacked on them. This keeps the leaning tower of boxes from happening in your moving truck. Plus, a properly packed box will prevent your items from shifting around. You might not be worried about your books breaking, but they can be damaged if they are packed too loosely. Say you’ve got a box that isn’t quite full, add shreds or other packing material until all the nooks and crannies are filled. You are now ready to tape up your box.

When packing breakables in your bins, start with something cushy at the bottom. This could be a bunch of shreds, a pillow, some clothes, or a blanket… anything that will prevent your items from touching the hard bottom of the bin. Next, put in a layer of wrapped breakable items making sure they don’t touch each other or the bin itself. You want to put packing material all around the edges and between items. You might be thinking that this is an inefficient use of space by including so much packing material, but now your items are safely nestled and unable to bump into anything that could break them.

Packing Perfection

(Could this photo be any less interesting to look at? It’s just a sea of white, grey and clear!)

Next, place a thick layer of shreds or other soft material on top of your items. Continue layering in this way until you get to the top layer, which should be a thick helping of packing material. Put the lid on and you are now a professional bin packer!

Of course, I haven’t actually moved yet, so these tips are totally untested. Everything might arrive in a heap of broken glass and ceramics. I wouldn’t trust me if I were you.

Bar Cart Obsessed!

Just like my fabulous friend Cheria, who blogs over at Love Cheria, I am bar cart obsessed! I have been hunting for a fabulous bar cart to display my vintage bar wares for ages, long before MAD MEN made all things cocktail cool. I am infinitely indecisive when it comes to purchases like these and my favorites typically come with hefty price tags. Lucky for me, I found a temporary solution that will tide me over until I can finally make up my mind.

Beautiful Bar Carts

And yet I still can’t resist trawling around on Etsy investigating current bar cart offerings. Here are a few nice bar carts I spotted today…

I prefer buying vintage furniture since the craftsmanship and style is typically not possible in similarly priced new items.  However, I can’t stop thinking about The Sedgewick from Society Social. My eye has been on this gorgeous bar cart for awhile now, and I may like it better than any of the vintage options I’ve seen, though it is quite spendy at $515. The gold and bamboo combination is to die for.

Segwick Bar Cart2

Temporary Solution

I discovered that my dad has been storing a perfectly serviceable little cart. And it comes at just the right price– FREE! The trade off, of course, is that it will require a little work seeing as it has been stored in a dank, dark basement.

My Bar Cart

Now, it may not look like much, but with a little cleaning and a fresh coat of paint, this cart will be ready to serve up cosmopolitans in no time! Yum!

Cosmopolitan Recipe

Carrie with CosmoI simply cannot end this blog post without proselytizing about the merits of a properly crafted cosmopolitan. People often assume cosmopolitans are too sweet, but I love them exactly because they are a perfect balance of sweet and tart. The key is to always use fresh lime juice!

Add the ingredients listed below into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake! My other tip is to make sure the drink is achingly cold. Basically, shake that thing until it’s so cold you can barely hold it. You will then have produced the perfect cosmo.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • 3/4 ounce cranberry juice
  • 1/2 ounce triple sec
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Cheers!

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