mum life, Unlikely mum makes

Unlikely Mum Makes: Homemade Candles

This last week I’ve been particularly busy doing the big house clean in preparation for winter. You know, the big clean you do before the Christmas tree goes up?

So once the cleaning was done it was time to jump right into the Christmas spirit. This year I decided to start making some Christmas candles as I love nothing more than the smell of Christmas in the house! Plus they make great little stocking fillers (if made well!). After posting my attempts on Instagram, a few people were keen to see how I did it. Candles are surprisingly simple to make if you know how.

I chose to make some orange & cinnamon and mulled wine scented candles, but there are loads of Christmas and wintry scents you can make. Here’s how to make your own Christmas candles exactly like I did:

What you need

Homemade-candles-christmas

  • Soy wax
  • Tin can
  • A pot and some boiling water
  • Candle wicks
  • Blue tac
  • Coloured crayons
  • Glass jar, tumbler or similar

How to make your candles

1. The first thing to do is set up the pot and water to start heating. Then grab your tin can – I used a soup can, but I guess anything of a similar size and metal will do. Fill the can with wax as much as you can, then place into a water bath to start melting. I bought a big 2kg bag of soy wax, which does plenty. You can also use paraffin wax (I think this might be cheaper in some instances?) but soy wax is more natural. I found that a 1kg bag makes about 10 of the candles made below.

You’ll notice as the wax starts to melt that it evaporates slightly, and at this point it’s best to top up the tin a bit. I topped up my tin 2-3 times in order to get 3 candles from the one tin.

Important point: remember to keep stirring your wax!

2. Now it’s time to set up your candle(s). You can use a glass tumbler or dish from the likes of Ikea if you’d like, however I opted to recycle some dessert glasses. There’s a leading brand that makes said desserts, and the likes of Aldi and other supermarkets stock their own brand dessert pots and cheesecakes which come in similar glass containers.

Whatever you choose, you need to fix the candle wick to your candle jar/glass. I I found pre-fixed  candle wicks ones on Amazon which came with stickers and a wick holder, the ideal kit for beginners. Take one fixed wick, add some Blu tac to the underside of the fixing, and stick to the bottom of your jar. Repeat this for however many candles you choose to make.

3. While the wax is melting, chop up some bits of your chosen colour of crayon to add to the tin. It’s worth bearing in mind that the soy wax candles are really white, so if you’re going for a red candle for example, I’d recommend adding some red and some brown crayon in there to achieve the desired colour. You don’t have to add colour, the candles still look fab white, but it helps to distinguish the scents if you’re going to try a few different ones. I chose to make one batch red, and one batch orange. Although I could have definitely added more brown to the red one as it came out paler than I’d hoped!

4. Once your wax and colour has all melted, turn off the heat and remove the tin from the water bath. Now choose your scent and add around 2ml (not quite half a teaspoon) of it to the melted wax. I used fragranced oils, opting for mulled wine for my red candles and orange & cinnamon for my orange ones. If you’re keen on keeping things more natural you can use essential oils rather than fragrance oils. Stir in your chosen scents well, so the fragrance mixes evenly in the wax.

5. Now it’s time to pour the wax into the jar. Be careful to hold onto the wick so it doesn’t bend or float around in the wax. Once filled, tie your wick around a pencil or use a wick holder to keep the wick evenly in the middle of the candle.

Once all your candles are filled and wicks firmly in place, simply sit back and relax – you’ve got about 2 hours or more for your candles to set! I left mine for most of the day just to be sure. Once set, remove the wick holder/pencils and trim your wick to the desired length (no more than an inch above the wax).

6. For decoration, I simply used some Christmas ribbon (from Aldi, however you can get similar ribbon almost anywhere for around the same price) and glue dots to hold in place on the glass. If you’re feeling more adventurous, why not decorate with glitter and glue, snow spray and stencils or draw with a marker if you’re quite the artistic type.

Hey presto, you just made a Christmas candle!

 

children-in-need-fundraising-nursery
mum life, nursery, Parenting

Children in Need Week at Nursery

It’s that time of year again folks; the Children in Need Appeal takes place this Friday. It must be an age thing, but it feels like it really wasn’t a whole year since the last one.

For the uninitiated, Children in Need (CIN) is a UK charity which supports disadvantaged children and young people in the country. Their goal is to ensure every child feels happy, safe, and has the chance to reach their full potential, no matter their circumstances. Every year, an appeal show is held on the BBC on the third Friday of November, to encourage donations from across the UK. The appeal show usually starts around 7pm and lasts all evening, with special episodes of soaps and popular TV programmes, musical performances, and lots of short clips from some of the children who have benefitted from CIN, which are sure to make you cry.

Above this, many organisations of various sizes take part too, from retailers like Greggs and ASDA to schools, youth clubs, workplaces and more. As the charity focuses on children, it makes sense that Travis’ nursery would be involved, with a week of fundraising activities for him to take part in.

I never thought I’d be the type of mum that got excited at the prospect of all the different activities and things you have to do for your kids to be a part of something, but I actually bloody love it. I think part of me is genuinely excited because I loved those days myself as a child, and probably wish I could still join Travis at nursery with his dress up, parties, baking and so on. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it feels like we have to remember to do something, wear something or bring something extra to nursery every other week, which gets hard to keep track of. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Besides, how can you be upset at a whole week of fundraising activities for disadvantaged children when your son attends a private nursery and has all he ever needs (and more besides!) at home?

Here’s how our week of fundraising looks to be shaping up: (I hope to add photos from each day as we go!)

Pyjama Party

Travis doesn’t attend nursery on Mondays, so we missed the Teddy Bear’s Picnic day, but there are still 4 fun days for him to get involved in, starting with Tuesday’s Pyjama Party! Really though, could there be a more perfect fundraising activity for mums? Literally just send your child out in their jammies, meaning you don’t have to think about an outfit for the day.
Bonus for them: they get a comfy nap at that time of day
Bonus for mum and dad: slightly less laundry

Playroom Theme

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have a clue what this theme was meant to be to start with. I thought playroom themes were things you searched for on Pinterest, offering a world of dreams for kids, but something which you couldn’t actually afford to implement. Turns out in this instance it simply means dressing up like your favourite toys, teddy bears in particular as Pudsey the bear is the CIN mascot. We opted for some Pudsey ears, socks and top, though as you can imagine the ears lasted about 1.5 seconds!

Crazy Hair Day

I think this is is probably another ideal theme for parents. I mean, just don’t brush your kids hair in the morning, right? Travis is in desperate need of a haircut, as he is currently sporting some curls around his neck, despite still having about 4 strands of hair on the top of his head, so his hair already looks crazy enough on a daily basis. However I might get a bit creative with some of his dad’s hair wax or maybe some hair makeup which can easily wash out.

Superhero & Princess Party

This one we might have a little trouble with. Travis had a Thor outfit for Halloween, kindly bought for his birthday by his uncle. Said Thor outfit was made a little on the neat side, but it worked for a Halloween party we went to the weekend before Halloween. By the time actual Halloween rolled around (a whole 4 days later) Travis had outgrown the outfit, so much so we couldn’t even fasten the poppers around the crotch. Delightful. And unfortunately now since Halloween has passed and Christmas is a mere 6 weeks away (I can’t wait!), there doesn’t seem to be any glimpse of a superhero in sight in any of the shops! And the superhero clothing that does seem to be on offer is few and far between in Travis’ size. Stay tuned to find out how this one ends up!

food

Butternut Squash Soup

This is a variation on a soup recipe given to me by my mum. She had followed their recipe as part of the diet plan she was on (I never remember which popular chain it was so I’m not naming for fear I get it wrong!) But obviously diet recipes are limiting to fit in a particular calorie or nutritional value, whereas I’m just interested in flavour!

This soup is vegan and the below recipe makes about 4-6 portions.

Butternut Squash Soup

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash
4-6 small potatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
Vegetable stock
1l water
Thyme

Method

  1. Firstly, finely chop the garlic and onion and fry over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Then add the diced squash for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Mix the stock with 900ml water and add everything to the one large pot.
  4. Peel and quarter the potatoes and add them to the pot.
  5. Leave to simmer for 30 mins, ensuring the soup does not boil over.
  6. Add the final 100ml of water and some thyme to taste. Summer for a further 15 minutes.
  7. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste if you wish.

I’ve found this method makes at least 4 adult sized portions of soup and at least 2 toddler sized portions for our family.

Butternut-squash-soup-recipe

do-dont-dunkeld-scotland
Lists, mum life

Do’s and Don’ts in Dunkeld

At the end of October the other half and I managed to escape for a quick getaway to the beautiful village of Dunkeld in Perthshire. The overnight stay was a gift from Craig’s parents for our engagement earlier in the year.

This was the last possible weekend to book our stay, so in true last minute Unlikely Mum style, we squeezed our visit in between work shifts and babysitters and headed for a very short romantic date night essentially.

Although we didn’t have much time to spend there, we definitely made the most of what we could, and noted some pointers for anyone else looking to travel around this area – particularly on a short timescale. I’d definitely recommend visiting Dunkeld and the surrounding area as it’s such a beautiful and mainly unspoilt part of Scotland, with lots to still see and do for tourists.

DO head to Howie’s Bistro

20181026_185645

This lovely little bistro was recommended to us by a taxi driver, and it was defintely worth the hype. I had some mushroom starter that I couldnt pronounce if you paid me (pictured) and a vegetarian moussaka. The other half opted for soup (it was souper cold. See what I did there?) and a massive chicken burger. There was so much food that neither of us could manage a dessert, despite the choices being mouthwatering. They have a healthy collection of gins for a smallish restaurant, and a decent choice of beers, wines and other spirits too. Howie’s Bistro is definitely a winner in my book

DON’T go out without planning how to get home

We may have picked up some dining tips from our taxi driver, but she also told us that she was only working until 10pm. On a Friday night. I will never get used to taxi companies/taxi drivers in remote areas not being available 24/7. Dunkeld also has buses running to various locations, and there’s a train station not too far outside Dunkeld, but if you aren’t staying right in the centre of the village, then it pays to check with the local transport and taxi drivers, so you’re not left stranded when the pub shuts!

DO head to nearby Birnam

We took a short drive into Birnam the next day (from the main village it would have been a nice walk, but we were staying just too far away for that). It’s another small and beautiful village, and one which boasts the Beatrix Potter Exhibition & Garden. I didn’t realise that Beatrix Potter had a connection with Perthshire until we visited, so it was really interesting to find out more. The garden is also cute and quaint, with various characters of the author’s appearing in statue form throughout the garden.

DO visit in Autumn

Maybe it’s just my love of the orange, yellow and red hues, or maybe Autumn is just the best time to visit Dunkeld. It’s so beautiful and picturesque, and the views will take your breath away. Plus, Autumn means it’s hit-and-miss weather-wise, but perfect for exploring out of season once the rest of the tourists have gone home to find their thermals.

DON’T go for just one day

I can’t stress enough the fact we really crammed our visit. There was so much we left unseen, and so many activities on offer that we had to pass up. Within our hotel alone there was the opportunity to quad bike, clay pigeon shoot or walk through some of the lovely nature trails. Other nearby visitor attractions include the Scottish Liqueur Centre in Bankfoot, Active Kids Adventure Park in Stanley and much more.

DO bring a camera

I’m so glad I brought my camera, even though we only had time to capture a few snaps in the morning. As I said, Dunkeld and the surrounding area is so picturesque, a camera is a must-have for any keen photographer. Plus, if you arrive at the right time of year, you might snap some deer as well as the usual pheasants, grouse and other Scottish wildlife which are in abundance in this neck of the woods.

dunkeld-scotland-travel-tips

babys-first-year-october
Baby M's firsts

October Firsts

We’ve made it to the 10th month in our year of firsts, and they are starting to thin out a little now. My boy has done so much in his first wee year of life already! However, there was one guaranteed first this month, which was equally celebrated and cried over.

First Birthday!
Yup, the big ONE came hurtling round the corner at 100mph this month. Who can believe it? A whole 365 days on earth already, each one brand new and filled with lots of exciting new things. I have to say, the last few months have flown by (definitely since returning to work!) and before we knew it, we were at the end of September thinking gosh, where did the year go? But as we made the transition from baby to toddler, we had a lovely first birthday party which was all Winnie the Pooh themed. Of course Travis was Pooh, and his besties came as tigger, piglet, or with any Pooh accessories on they could find. I actually loved planning the party and hosting all the games and stuff, so much so, I was considering a career change! But the day wasn’t about me, it was about our little munchkin. He was so spoilt and had an absolute ball, and I still can’t thank everyone enough for coming to the party, sharing cards and gifts, and generally wishing our little Pooh Bear a happy first birthday.

First wellies
One of Pooh Bear’s birthday presents was a pair of the cutest little penguin wellies you ever did see. He had previously been bought a pair of wellies by grandparents, but they were too small for him, so he could never wear them unfortunately. Since it’s now pretty much winter in Scotland, I think he’s going to get a lot of use out of those wellies, starting now!

First trip to Edinburgh
The capital is a mere 50 miles from where we live, so it’s surprising that we’ve never taken Travis to Edinburgh before. Well, unless you count the times he went in my tum last year! We were heading through for the wedding of some good friends, so we didn’t get to show Travis many sights, but we did get to share more firsts with the wee man.

First wedding
blue-ramsay-tartan-kiltSo our visit to Edinburgh on 14th October meant Travis got to attend his very first wedding. (Again, unless you count any attended in the womb!) I was surprised at just how well-behaved he was the whole day, and how much fun he seemed to have. I erred on the side of caution when it came to the wedding meal, and told the bride we would bring our own just in case it was something Trav didn’t like or couldn’t handle. However, he managed to eat the whole lot of his own dinner, whilst trying bits of mum and dad’s and moaning for more whenever we shared some!

First kilt
It’s traditional to wear a kilt at a wedding, though most of those outside the wedding party usually just wear suits unless they own their own kilt. I know a tiny little tux would have been adorable on a toddling one year old, but I just couldn’t resist a baby kilt! We managed to get a lovely Blue Ramsay tartan kilt, sporran, shoes, kilt socks and bow tie for the wedding and my goodness I genuinely can’t think of anything cuter.

First Ready, Steady, Splash!
Our little Pooh Bear started his first swimming classes back in April; Ready Steady Splish. However, once you turn one, you are no longer considered a baby and are fired into the Ready, Steady Splash! class where toddlers get to float and swim by themselves (with supervision, obvs). I was worried the leap would be too big for our little man as he started his Splish lessons much later than many in his class. However, I’ve been told he’s a natural (his dad has taken him to the Splash classes so far, while I’ve been at work) and I’m excited/petrified to go with him to the big boy class in November.

First Halloween party
Last year, we celebrated our first Halloween together when Trav was just a few weeks old. This year was a much different affair as he was much more active and able to pull things like masks and accessories off within 2 seconds of putting them on. Our first Halloween party was at a friend’s on 27th October where he was dressed as a baby Thor, thanks to a fab costume from his uncle. Then within a few days it was time for the nursery Halloween party and I’ve all of a sudden realised my one year old has a much better social life than me!

 

Food firsts:
Jam sandwich – I think he tried a bit of jam on toast when he was about 5 or 6 months old, as a means to help constipation, but he really wasn’t into it then. So I was pleased to learn he scoffed a good ol’ jeely piece at his nursery party on Halloween!
Other party foods he tried for the first time included party rings and cheese sticks.