Tuesday, December 9, 2014

spa gifts ¦ homemade for the holidays

christmas can feel indulgent. it's a time of year when we really let go of the stresses of day to day and embrace the spirit of the season. we smile and laugh more. we share our time with friends and family more freely. we pull out and dust off those pretty clothes that are normally left lonely in the backs of our closets. we add a little sparkle to ourselves as we get caught up in the magic. gifting homemade spa items are a great way to indulge your friends and family this holiday season! this year i decided to make batches of bath salts, lip balms, homemade soap bars, and soothing foot lotions. they are super easy to make, use natural ingredients which everyone benefits from, and everyone loves them!
so let's start with bath salts. these are super easy and provide such wonderful health benefits to our bodies. epsom salts soothe body, mind and soul and can ease back pain and aching limbs, relax the nervous system, cure skin problems, ease muscle strain, heal cuts and treat colds and flu. now add in the benefits of essential oils and it's a cure all ;)
epsom salts are not really a salt but a mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate, so please make sure when you are purchasing your salts, you are purchasing epsom. bath salts are not the same thing and are chemically made harmful compounds.
this year i made 2 different epsom salt combinations...first up, citrus epsom salts. nothing beats the winter blahs then the happy unlifting qualities of orange, lemon, and grapfruit!
 you will need:
2 cups epsom salts
1 cup baking soda
20-30 drops essential oils; 10 orange, 10 lemon, 10 grapfruit
you can choose to add a few drops of food colouring to your batch, but i don't :)

combine the epsom and baking soda together.
add the oil in batches so as not to have the salt mixture clump, mixing well in between each addition.
see? easy!
using a a funnel pour salts into jars and you are ready to gift!
the eucalyptus blend is just as easy and will keep those colds and flus at bay! this one has the added bonus of being a milk bath as well. milk is a natural exfoliant without scrubbing so it's great through winter when skin tends to dry and crack and helps with keeping your skin moisturized
what you'll need:
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup baking soda
1 cup sea salt
2 cups epsom salt
20 drops eucalyptus essential oil

mix all the dry ingredients together, add essential oil drops in batches, mixing well between additions to ensure there is no clumping. funnel into jars and you are ready to gift.
this sounds intimidating, and i admit in the beginning i was super intimidated by the whole process...but it's simple and as long as one takes the necessary precautions, it's not so scary :)
i prefer keeping my soap simple and tend not to get caught up in a ton of oil blends. i make a pure olive oil soap, a pure coconut oil soap, and a coconut/olive oil soap.

pure olive oil soap (aka castille soap)
100 oz olive oil
12.6 oz lye
30 oz water
4 oz essential oil

respect the lye and make sure you read up on proper soap safety, and making this soap is easy. things to know...i use dishes and utensils that are only for soap making. i also make the soap in my husband's shop rather then in my kitchen and always have vinegar on hand :) i also cut my soap into bars around the 10-14 hour mark.
you can find directions on how to make soap here (this link also has the recipe i use for my olive oil/coconut oil blend soap)
this olive oil soap makes a FABULOUS shampoo bar. i no longer buy commercially made shampoos since making this soap. my hair has never been healthier and has never looked better! i use an apple cider vinegar rinse for conditioning or a natural conditioner i buy from saje.

 pure coconut oil soap
33 oz coconut oil
4.83oz lye
12.54 oz water
1 oz essential oil

use the methods above to make this recipe.

coconut and olive oil soap
24 oz olive oil
24 oz coconut oil
38 oz vegetable shortening (aka crisco)
12 oz lye
32 oz water
4 oz essential oil

use the above method above to make this soap. this soap also makes another fabulous shampoo bar

favourite essential oil blends

lemon grass & lavender: lovely soothing and refreshing blend.
rosemary, tea tree, & lavender: great blend for skin (blemishes, acne, scarring, etc and helps aid in strength and growth for hair)
peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, lavender: i call this my garden blend, such a great blend in a soap for washing away the dirt after weeding. it's refreshing and soothing and antibacterial
lemon, peppermint, rosemary, bergamot: a wonderful energizing blend
lavender & tea tree: antiseptic and anti bacterial

the amounts of each oil you use is subjective. simply make sure you have enough of your essential oil blend to make up the ounces called for in each recipe. with the stronger scents such as lavender and eucalyptus, i start with less as they can overpower. i add more as i create if needed, i really just go by what smells good!
 and the last 2 homemade spa ideas i want to share are a peppermint lip balm and a peppermint foot lotion. i have no pictures of either of these...but they are super simple!
i love the lip balm and use it every day!

peppermint lip balm
2 tbsp grated beeswax
4 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp honey
5-10 drops peppermint essential oil

-heat gently in a double boiler the the beeswax, coconut oil and honey stirring occasionally to mix well.
-once melted add oil
-place pan in a cold water bath and stirring quickly until it starts to thicken, pour into container.

told you it was easy! it makes about 1/4 cup of balm and you can easily pour into small individual pots to gift or pour into a small 1/4 cup sized jar for family use :)

and for a soothing foot lotion that will help ease sore and tired feet, i used the recipe and instructions found here:
peppermint foot lotion

i hope you give some of the ideas a go, would love to hear how t goes for you and how they might be received! if you have your own recipes you want to share, please feel free to do so in the comments section!
also make sure you go check out ronda's spa gifts, she tackled sugar scrubs and bath bombs :) in a two part blog post, part 1 and part 2

happy tuesday everyone!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

sweet treats ¦ homemade for the holidays

sweet treats...one really cannot do holidays without them. recipes are traditions passed down through the hands of generations. words we guard closely to our hearts against the inquiries from others we choose to share our baked goodness with. these recipes, like the ornaments on our tree, come with stories. memories. moments that all lend to this magic that is created each holiday season.
every christmas as a little girl, without a doubt, there was always shortbread, butter tarts, and hungarian pastry. my mom would spend hours...days, baking massive batches of treats. christmas is just not christmas without the homemade treats.

since the holidays are about sharing, there really is no better gift to give then that of beautifully made food by loving hands, i would like to share some of my favourite treats.
butter tarts
for the pastry, you can go ahead and purchase tart shells already made or give a go to making your own pastry.
my mom always used the tenderflake recipe from the box of tenderflake, recently i started using the joy of cooking for butter tarts, which is where i am pretty sure my mom got her recipe from to begin with. i remember her joy of cooking cookbook...loved and well worn from many years of use. pages falling out, stains from adventures in baking...i digress :)

Pie Crust Pastry:
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar
1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces
1/8 to 1/4 cup (30 - 60 ml) ice water

Butter Tart Filling:
1/3 cup (70 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (210 grams) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) light cream (half-and-half) (10% butterfat)
1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins

Pie Crust Pastry:  In a food processor, place the flour, salt, and sugar and process until combined. Add the butter and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal (about 15 seconds). Pour 1/8 cup (30 ml) water in a slow, steady stream, through the feed tube until the dough just holds together when pinched. If necessary, add more water.

Turn the dough onto your work surface and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about one hour before using. This will chill the butter and relax the gluten in the flour. 

After the dough has chilled sufficiently, place on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut into 12 - 4 inch (10 cm) rounds. (To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards).) Gently place the rounds into a 12-cup muffin tin. Cover and place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm the dough. 

Butter Tart Filling: In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla extract. Stir in the cream. If using nuts and/or raisins, place a spoonful in the bottom of each tart shell and then fill the unbaked tart shells with the filling. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 15 - 20 minutes or until the pastry has nicely browned and the filling is puffed and set. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

shortbread is another lovely favourite...crisp, melt in your mouth deliciousness.
here's a favourite whipped shortbread recipe my mom handed down to me, have no idea where she got it from, but it seems to be a pretty standard recipe when searching online :)
Whipped Shortbread
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch

preheat oven to 300F
in a bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy, beat in icing sugar 2 tbsp's at a time until light and fluffy. in a separate bowl sift together flour and cornstarch. add flour mixture to butter mixture a third at a time, mixing between additions until smooth. drop by teaspoonfuls, 1 inch apart onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and press with a fork. bake for 20-25 minutes. do not let tops brown, shortbread cookies should be a gorgeous creamy pale colour :). for additional yumminess, once cooled, dip half of each shortbread cookie into some melted chocolate and let harden. you can even sprinkle the chocolate half with nuts, coconut, sprinkles, etc before it hardens.

my kids love to package up little bundles of homemade treats and deliver to our various neighbors and we always love seeing the smiles on their faces. so this christmas, give the gift of food and put a smile on your neighbors face :)

Friday, December 5, 2014

we interrupt your regular programming ¦ simply living

 ...to wish my son a very happy birthday! he turned 14 yesterday! still not sure where my head is at with this...he's legally allowed to get his learners, he can apply for jobs...14. despite my reservations on moving into this phase of his life, he is an amazing person that i am so happy and proud to call my son.
i have no official 'he's 14!" photo as yesterday is a busy night for us, however, his fellow hip hop dancer, sadie, who spoiled him by bringing him a cake she made to class! so instead, i will share a few captures from his hip hop class last night...
but of course, they cannot sit around and eat cake all night...the dancing must commence!

dakota, i know i'm you're mom, but i kinda think you're a pretty cool kid :) may your 14th year be amazing!
your regular programming, homemade for the holidays, will resume tomorrow :)
happy friday everyone!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

sewn gifts ¦ homemade for the holidays

i love sewing and have been sewing in some form since i was about 5. my mom taught me and i still remember one of my very first projects was a little pillow that i hand embroidered a circus elephant on. i still remember not loving the embroidery part...and my mom pushing me to finish it, because embroidery taught me how to have nice hand stitches. i finished it and the pillow resided in a place of honour on me bed for years after as i moved onto other projects. usually every holiday season will see me making sewn gifts...usually for the extra kids in my life. i used to run a dayhome
 and many of those kids have stayed in my heart over the years.

today i want to share my all time favourite gift i've ever made and given. the build a snowman kit :) i have no tutorial for it as it never occurred to me when i was making it several years ago, to create a tutorial to go with...but i will do my best to walk you through it :)
again, all of these supplies i had on hand :) i used felt, fleece, satin ribbon, paint, black embroidery floss, and clear plastic film canisters.
 snowman's coal mouth was created by collecting little pebbles from my driveway and spray painting them with tremclad black. super simple :)
the button eyes i created by cutting out 4 circles from grey felt and blacket stitching 2 circles together using black embroidery thread, then i stitched an X across the centres and did 4 french knots at each point.
for the carrot nose, i cut out 2  carrot shapes from orange felt. using my sewing machine and white thread i stitched random lines across each half to create the lines on the carrot. then with right sides together i sewed the carrot halves together, leaving an opening to stuff the nose with, then hand stitched the opening closed.
i do not have a picture of it, but for the eyes and nose i hot glued empty film cannisters to the end of the nose and the back side of the eyes...this allows the kids to stick the nose and eyes into the snow and have them stay in place.
 for the scarf i simply cut a scarf length from fleece in the width i wanted, from felt i cut 6 diamonds and sewed 3 onto each end of the scarf in a large zig zag pattern to create a bit of an argyle pattern. i also added fringed ends by cutting across the ends of the scarf at half inch intervals.
and finally, the top hat...this really was trial and error. from heavy felt i cut a rectangle, matched up the short ends and stitch it closed to create a tube. using the opening of one of the tube, i traced out a 2 circles, one for the top of the hat and one for creating the brim later. i then lined it up the top of the hat and the hate tube and zigzag stitched the top of the hat to the  hat sides. using the second circle that was traced i free handed a larger circle around that circle i traced. i cut out the brim along the larger circle and then cut the inner circle out leaving me with a "donut". i then zigzag stitched the brim to the base of the hat. to finish it off i hot glued wide red satin ribbon and a hand crafted holly sprig.
the holly was created by cutting out 4 holly leaves, stitching 2 of the leaves together straight up the middle. i cut out 3 circles from red felt, placed a bit of stuffing in the middle of the circles and with a needle and thread pulled the edges of the circles closed around the stuffing. i hot glued the berries to the holly leaves and hot glued the completed holly sprig to the hat.
i gifted this to a 2 adorable kids that i had in my dayhome for about 3 years. every year they build a snowman on their front lawn and adorn it with this kit. love that they still use it!
do you have any kids in your life that would love a snowman building kit? if so, this makes a fabulous gift! if you decide to tackle making one, please feel free to email me with any questions on the how to.
happy wednesday!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

home decor ¦ homemade for the holdidays

i LOVE decorating for the christmas season...being that it's my favourite time of year, this really is no surprise. each year i decorate my home with homemade creations that make me smile and add a little magic to our season. home decor can not only add some special touches to your own home, but can make great gifts during the holiday season!
my favourite thing to make are banners/garlands...i love hanging and "swagging" them over windows, shelves, mirrors, etc and they really don't have to take a lot of time or be super complicated and are a great way to use up what you already have on hand or recycle cool packaging you may have acquired.
this banner was created with kraft tissue paper, printed brown paper bags and some string. the embellishments were equally simple and stuff i already had on hand...sequins, glitter, stamps and stickers. none of which bespoke a christmas theme to begin with...so no need to think you need christmas themed papers or embellishments :)
i love this wreath, i came across the idea for this a couple years ago and couldn't resist making my own. you can find the how to over on this blog, it's super simple! foam balls, yarn in your choice of colours, a few embellishments, foam wreath form, ribbon, and a hot glue gun!

this wreath would make an excellent gift! another favourite thing of mine to make is paper christmas trees...you can find so many different paper tree tutorials online and i usually make a few new ones each year as there is always a shelf space that could use a little extra sparkle :)
these little ruffled crepe paper trees i made last year after a little search turned up this tutorial.
my little piano roll paper tree has weathered well over the years and i still love it! i have no tutorial for this one (it was created by gigi for kenner road about 4-5 years ago), but i used vintage piano roll paper, hot gluing 4-6 inch long strips that were about 3 inches wide that i cut at 1/2 inch intervals, onto a foam cone form. because the paper was on a roll, it automatically curled up to create a tree like appearance. once that was done, i used a paint brush to brush glue onto the paper and sprinkled with glitter, topping the tree off with some ribbon adhered by a decorative stick pin and some beads :) there's a ton of decorative christmas tree ideas here
i did mention i loved banners/garlands? with nothing more complicated then a 2.5 inch circle and/or scalloped circle punch, some music sheet music, vintage book paper, and coffee filters...yup coffee filters, you can easily replicate this garland. i punched a TON...a ton...of circles from al the above listed papers in varying shades of cream and white. i sprayed them with some glimmer mist in browns, punched holes into the centre of all the punched circles. i then randomly threaded them onto twine (jute) in bunches, knotting before and after each bunch. using vintage christmas light reflectors and beads i finished off the ends with loops for hanging. the tin barn stars came from a scarlet lime project kit years ago...i added them onto the garland as an after thought one year and they have stayed there ever since :) i painted and inked and glued things onto each of the stars and finished them off with some ribbon.
sorry for the grimy window...my kids like to use dry erase markers on the window :) they draw, do their homework or create their own countdown calendars to birthdays or events they are excited about.
would love to see how you decorate for christmas, feel free to leave a link or picture in the comment sections!
ronda has some great home decor ideas as well, so head over to her blog!

happy tuesday!