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Month: December 2016

A DIY Christmas Hamper

A DIY Christmas Hamper

There were a few days this past week where it felt that the sun had done a runner and left us in a perpetual state of dusk. Not seeing an inch of blue sky can definitely have its negative affects so I’m already feeling a little cheerier when I can see the low winter light streaming through the window, even if it’s just for half an hour!

 

Things have felt very busy this week and my bank account has taken such a battering in the last two months with trips away and now presents to buy that I’m afraid to even look at my statements! There is huge pressure to buy the most expensive gifts and not only that, pressure to have the house decorated, visit all our relatives and friends and drink our body weights in alcohol. Luckily there seems to be more and more people championing the simpler Christmas which I think helps to encourage less money spending and more thought.

 

In the spirit of this, I have decided against the usual mad rush of buying anything I think will do for my extended family in favour of making my own Christmas hampers filled with homemade products I think they will appreciate much more than a bottle of wine or another pair of gloves! I chose simple products that wouldn’t stress me out too much and I have staggered out the crafting process so I don’t feel overwhelmed and can actually enjoy it all.

 

I will list out a few of the things I’ve chosen to make however the gift of this is that you can be as flexible as you like and keep it minimal if it’s all you can manage.

 

ROSE PETAL BATH SALTS

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What You Need:

  • Petals from 4 roses
  • 20 drops of vanilla oil/essence
  • 3 cups of Epsom salts
  • Mini bags

These salts were embarrassingly easy to make and took all of about half an hour to make 18 small bags!

  1. The week before making them I bought a bunch of red roses when I was doing my groceries for £3 and enjoyed them until they were starting to wilt.
  2. When I knew their days were over, I took the heads off and sprinkled the petals in my Nutri Bullet. After a quick blitz the shredded petals were the most beautiful shade of crimson and the smell was A-MAZING.
  3. I added the petals to 3 cups of Epsom salts that were already in a bowl and added my vanilla drops.
  4. After thoroughly mixing through and feeling giddy with the pretty colours, I added them to the bags I had found on Amazon and they were good to go!

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CHRISTMAS SOAP

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What You Need:

  • ¾ Melt and Pour Soap Base Clear
  • Silicone Mould
  • 100 drops Orange Essential Oil
  • 50 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • 20 drops Clove Bud Essential Oil
  • 3 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • Pyrex Jug

This was a little trickier than the bath salts but well worth the smell it created in the kitchen I promise!

  1. First of all I cut the soap base in to cubes that would fit in to the moulds so I could guess how much I would need to melt.
  2. I then put the cubes in to the jug and placed in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so until the base was melted.
  3. Once fully melted I added my oils and ground cinnamon and mixed well.
  4. After this I poured the mix in to the moulds CAREFULLY because I wanted the top of the soap to be smooth and not pouring over the edges (not so pretty). I
  5. I placed the moulds on a tray to keep steady and then in the fridge to cool for 1-2 hours.
  6. Once they’re solid you can pop them out and then dress them up any way you please!

 

CHRISTMAS CANDLES

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What You Need:

  • 1kg soy wax flakes
  • 3 Jam Jars (or whatever you have – I keep Bonne Mamam jam jars for my candles)
  • 3 wicks – I got mine here
  • 20 drops of Orange Essential Oil per jar
  • 40 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil per jar
  • 15 drops Clove Bud Essential Oil per jar

I play it a bit fast and loose with making these so the guidelines are pretty rough but easy to follow I hope! What’s handy is that you have similar ingredients to your Christmas soap so you can make your candles while your soaps are setting in the fridge (I paint a very calm picture don’t I?!).

  1. I placed my jam jars in a big pan filled about to about 2 inches deep of boiling water and then scooped about 18 tablespoons in to the jars. Make sure and take time when adding the wax as it reduces down as it melts so you will have to add them gradually.
  2. Once all your wax has melted and your jars are almost full, take the jars out of the pan and then add your essential oils.
  3. The final step is to place one wick in the centre and make sure it sticks to the bottom of the jar by using sticks to hold it in place (I laid kebab sticks across the jar and placed the wick in between so it didn’t fall away from the centre). This is the trickiest part and might take some patience!
  4. Wait for the candles to set and then cut your wick down to an appropriate length et voila!

 

LAVENDER HAND WASH

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What You Need:

  • Soap dispensers
  • Jug
  • 2 cups of castile soap
  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 4 tbsp sweet almond oil
  • 4 tbsp vitamin E oil
  • 20 drops of Witch Hazel
  • 40 drops of lavender essential oil

This recipe allowed me to make 4 of these bad boys and it took all of about 10 minutes #winning

  1. Using your jug, pour in your water first and then castile soap (prevents lots of bubbles) and then your essential oils.
  2. Give it a good shake around and then you are done!

 

WHIPPED SHEA & OLIVE OIL BODY BUTTER

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What You Need:

  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 30 – 40 drops of vanilla essential oil
  • 2 x 500ml glass jars

This is a fairly messy process so one tip I have is to wash your utensils straight away after using!

  1. Scoop your shea butter in to a pan and gently melt.
  2. Gradually add your olive oil
  3. Add essential oils and remove from heat
  4. Once cooled, place the pan in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the mixture has almost solidified
  5. Using a hand held mixer, whip the mixture until you get a light, airy texture.
  6. Spoon the mixture in your containers and they are good to use for a few months.

 

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I hope this provides a little insight in to how easy homemade gifts can be to make. All it takes is a little preparation and motivation on these dark evenings but the outcome is so worth it! Make sure to add some little Christmas themed sweets or crackers to try and beef out the box a little otherwise you can use some more of my crafting recipes here and here to help inspire you a little more!

 

Happy crafting x

A Guide to Copenhagen in Winter

A Guide to Copenhagen in Winter

Winter is the season to live slowly and with the movement of slow living grasping Instagram and beyond, the Danish word ‘hygge’ has become the fashionable word to use. There is no English definition of this word but generally it can be translated as a feeling that comes from taking pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special. This ideology is right up my street and I just knew Copenhagen was the perfect choice for a last getaway before my Aussie visitor ended her European travels. A bonus was that my baby sister Shannon was persuaded to tag along with us – a first trip away as adults!

We found a great deal on flights (£40!!!) with Ryanair from Dublin and booked ourselves an apartment on Airbnb. I know most people know all about Airbnb but if you haven’t, make sure to look the website up next time you’re booking a break. Andrew and I use it everywhere we go and it’s a great way to get a sneak peek in to local life. We were staying in an apartment in Vesterbro which is a little west of the city centre but super handy as we were right on the main street that took us directly in to town. The apartment was small but had everything we needed including a wee balcony to enjoy in the mornings – if you fancy having a nosy you can check it out here. The owner Janice was lovely and allowed us to check out at 5pm because our flight home wasn’t until 8pm – fab host!

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We had three wonderful days in Copenhagen so I’ll fill you in on what we did each day…

Saturday

We landed at around 7pm which was a perfect time to get to the apartment and start a quest to find somewhere to eat. The airport was only 20-25 mins away and I couldn’t get over the lack of traffic! We were at our new home in no time to meet our host Janice who gave us a quick tour of the apartment. With that over we headed out immediately in search of food and stumbled upon Restaurant Ngoc Linh, a Vietnamese that did the tastiest shredded pork! Unfortunately Belfast doesn’t have a Vietnamese restaurant (at least I’m almost certain it hasn’t although if I’m wrong please tell me!) so I was overjoyed to taste some authentic South East Asian food.

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After we were fed we of course had to be watered so I did what any good tourist does and searched for the best bars on Tripadvisor. I had read that the Meat Packing District was a new up and coming place however we found ourselves on what seemed to be called ‘Thai Corner’ amongst a street of strip clubs – not exactly what we had in mind! We found a few places but they were all ‘bodegas’ – bars that allow smoking inside – not a good idea for Shannon and I! Embarrassingly we ended up in Kennedy’s, an Irish Bar! We were just so happy to find a warm pub that we stayed here until 1am and to my amazement I was able to keep up with the young things and we carried on after to the clubs of Verstergrade until 4am!

Sunday

I was relieved to wake up feeling only semi-horrendous on Sunday morning but after a Berocca and a litre of water I was grand and ready for some brekkie. We headed out in the hope of getting breakfast at Granola, a popular place in the area, but to our disappointment it was jammed and so we headed off for an alternative. We found Café Phenix not too far away which served an amazing buffet breakfast and made our hungover hearts sing. Well mine and Shannon’s anyway – Holly was feeling so under the weather she had to go back to the apartment to rest!

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After a dose of pancakes, bacon, eggs, muesli and weirdly salmon, Shannon and I trotted down the main street to the Tivoli Gardens. I was incredibly happy walking along the street, peering in to all the wonderful shop fronts of so many wonderful small businesses. All the shops had their windows and doors adorned with fir and lights and candles were to be found flickering on steps to give customers a feeling of welcome.

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If the sheer abundance of candles didn’t give us a sense of magic then the Tivoli Gardens were sure to deliver and that it did – and more! From the moment I spied the gates of the second oldest theme park in the world, I knew I was about to step in to a truly special place. Christmas music was drifting intertwined with the smell of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts… I could barely contain myself.

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The sheer scale of the park was what shocked me the most. Everytime I thought we were coming to the edge of the park we would turn a corner and find new stalls, rides and games to discover. We ended up spending the day here because there was so much to see and for an entrance fee of only £13 I thought it was a bargain. Shannon and I stopped for a stein of beer in a few of the many bars and restaurants to warm up from the bitter cold outside and Holly joined us later when she felt a little more human. As she she arrived the lights came on around the park and the trees lit up the walkways and lakes surrounding us – it was like a Disney winter wonderland!

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We had dinner in Mazzoli’s, a rustic Italian joint that served authentic Italian food with incredible flavours. It was so welcoming and we stayed there for quite a well as we knew the temperature outside was dropping quickly. We finished off the dinner with some great hot chocolate and made plans to head back the apartment to have an early night and get cosy.

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Monday

We woke up fresher on Monday morning and full of plans to make the most of our last full day in the city. We headed out for breakfast at Café Obelisk and had the Danish version of a full fry (a slice of brie with breakfast? Yes please!) before a walk through the streets of the city centre. I spent most of the walk gazing upwards at the stunning Scandinavian architecture which proved slightly dangerous but the Danish are so polite they just got right out of my way. Speaking of the Danes though, they have it all figured out! Everyone cycles everywhere which explains the lack of traffic and they are super friendly that I felt so welcome despite my terrible and non-existent Danish!

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As we passed the City Hall and walked down the shopping streets with blinders on we headed towards Nyhavn. Before we flew to Copenhagen I had seen pictures of the canal of Nyhavn with the most colourful buildings dotted along it with the boats in the foreground but I had no idea just how beautiful it would be in real life. It was breathtaking because as we got there the sun began to go down and the sky started turning a cerise pink which only allowed the colours to become more saturated. Needless to say I took a million photos although none of them to do the scene justice.

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After a mega-large stein of beer to fuel us, we then walked across the bridge towards Freetown Christiana where the sunset had taken on a new level of amazingness. Freetown is an area that was once used as an army barracks but when the army moved out in the 1970’s, squatters began to move in and it has since been declared as autonomous from Denmark. It’s a pretty special place that embraced the hippie movement and was such a stark contrast to the military history of the land so of course we had to go there.

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We strolled through the streets as it started to get dark and because there are no street lights or cars in Freetown, there was an almost eerie feeling as the sun disappeared. We never felt in danger and despite getting lost amongst the wooden framed houses, a friendly local was happy to point us in the direction of a bar. Another thing about Freetown is that cannabis is smoked openly and so as we entered the bar we were greeted with a cloud of smoke and quite a few glazed eyes staring back at us. Luckily there was another bar that Shannon and I could breathe easily in so we headed there for another wee beer.

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As we began our trek back to the apartment we were overcome with starvation and needed respite from the icy cold winds. Luckily we spotted an Irish Bar called The Dubliner (how predictable I know and I can feel the head shakes as I type) but I had the best belly-warming beef and guinness pie so there were no regrets! We were back home at a reasonable hour to warm ourselves up and rest our tired hooves from a big day of walking.

Tuesday

This was our last day in Copenhagen and because Holly was flying to London at 3pm and we were flying a few hours after, we decided not to stray too far from the apartment. We managed to go as far as Kaffestuen for some lunch and a dander and enjoy our final hours in our Danish apartment.

I said my goodbye to Holly which was quite tough but I felt so lucky to have her for a whole month. This is the danger with having friends across the world – you feel like you’re constantly saying goodbye. Shannon and I were left on our own to pack our things before heading to the airport.

I didn’t feel quite ready to leave Copenhagen because I felt so at home there but I know I will be back again to explore even more. I couldn’t recommend it enough and if you’re ever in need of a winter escape, make sure to consider this city because it’s the perfect place to have a slow, relaxing time in a place that it is really brimming with magic.

 

 

 

 

What Not To Worry About #9

What Not To Worry About #9

This wee blog has been feeling a tad neglected recently and it’s all because my motivation has completely disintegrated these last few weeks. I’m not sure if it’s because winter has well and truly settled in and dark evenings by the fire are sending me in to a deep coma dominated by tea and chocolate but my energy has been thwarted. I’m also terrible at admitting times when CF is affecting me more than it usually does because I hate feeling the littlest bit defeated but I’m raising the white flag and declaring that I’m wrecked.

 

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed when our health feels jeopardised isn’t it? We turn in to the self-pitying, mummy-needing worst version of ourselves when we’re feeling low and the smallest things can turn in to monsters we want to hide from. I struggle with this because I’m so used to having a headful of plans but again, this is another opportunity to be easier on myself. Winter after all is the season for hibernation and that should be embraced not dreaded! I need to dive deep and pioritise things that make me happy; crafts, baking, reading. Mother Nature and my body are telling me to slow down and it’s about time I listened.

 

It should be no real surprise to me that I’m so knackered because the last month has been manic as I played my role as the hostess with the mostess. Holly, my Aussie visitor (fun fact: she’s actually from New Zealand but she lives in Australia where we met and became besties – probably didn’t need to know that but I felt obligated to share!), was with me for just under a month and because I have this ridiculous need to make people love Ireland as much as I do, I had to show her everything I could. We’ve had trips to Cork, Donegal, the Mournes, Armagh, Belfast and then we flew to Copenhagen for a few days over the weekend (I’ll be writing a separate post about that trip because I need more space to profess my love of the Danes). JAM PACKED.

 

Now that I have packed away my hosting hat, I’m dedicated to spending as much time indoors as possible and wearing flannel pyjamas at every opportunity. This week, as well as allowing myself to get over this low spell, I refuse to let the following bother me…

 

Christmas Decorations – I reckon there are a group of elves somewhere with their wee houses littered with lost decorations. Where do they go?? And why, in a whole string of lights, is there one pesky bulb that decides to not work?? Just cover up the dark patches with more baubles I say. Can’t have too many baubles.

 

Wrinkles – They seem to have come out of nowhere but now when I see photos of myself all I can see are eyebags that take up my entire face. What’s even more depressing is that this is only the beginning (wah!) so I guess I’ll be making a hefty purchase of Olay this Christmas or whatever potions the aul dolls are buying these days.

 

Infant Neighbours – We live next door to a very cute human called Heidi. Heidi is two now and just loves to wake up at 6am to tell us stories from the other side of the wall using noises which can only be described as a cat being strangled. Heidi is on thin ice.

 

Pop Music – As well as wrinkles making me feel ancient, the crap that’s on the radio is driving me mental! I’ve now entered the Radio 2 phase which must mean I’m officially past it. What I can also listen to quite happily is Breakfast Republic on RTE 2FM – the hosts have me in stitches every morning which makes me look like a crazed woman in the early rush hour. If you haven’t listened to the show – DO IT!

 

Email Etiquette – In my job I have to email some pretty intimidating big wigs and when they reply with LOL or 🙂 or mwah, I haven’t a notion what to do next! Should I give a wink? LMFAO?? The pressure is too much.

 

I hope your week is wonderful and festive! I’m just after watching Andrew bake a yule log and I get to lick the bowl so everything is looking up here!