Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Valentine's Day on a Budget: Quick and Easy Candle Tutorial

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, store windows are filled with red and pink, and we are being encouraged to buy, buy buy! But there are plenty of ways to be thrifty and environmentally friendly around what is often characterized as a very consumerist holiday. For example, if you're thinking of buying flowers for your sweetheart, why not bring in your own vase instead of purchasing one? Most of us have a selection of rarely used vases, and Valentine's day is a great excuse to bring them out and show them off! Remember that it's a busy time for them, but with a few days' notice, most florists will be happy to create a beautiful arrangement in your own, special vase or container.

Dining out can be a major drain on your wallet, when you can usually buy the ingredients to make the very same meal at home for a fraction of the cost. Grab your partner, don your aprons, and have fun cooking a meal together.

So now that we've got flowers and dinner on the table, it's time to set the mood. Dim the lights and impress your sweetheart when you light up your very own, home made Valentine's Day candles.


- A mold of some kind. Pictured is a silicone ice cube tray, but I also had success using a heart shaped cookie cutter and a sheet of tinfoil.
- Wax. You can use new paraffin wax or melt down old candles, which is a great way to use up the stubs and bits of those leftover red and white Christmas candles.
- Candle wick. You can buy this at any craft store, or if you're reusing old candles, you can actually reuse the wick as well
- Crayons in red or pink to give colour to your wax mixture.
- A pot and an empty tin can for a makeshift double boiler. A deep pot with a narrower top is the best, so that you can fit the can easily inside with room around the edges for water.
- Cooking spray


Set a pot of water on the stove to boil while you prep your other ingredients. You'll want to clean your tin can thoroughly and remove the label from the outside. Be sure to take care as the opening of the can may have some jagged or sharp edges. If you are using older candles and crayons, make sure to wash any dust or grime that may have accumulated on the outside. Remove any paper wrappings that may be around the crayons, and spray your moulds lightly with cooking spray.

If any of the wicks can be easily pulled from the candles, do it now.

Toss all of your wax and some of your crayon bits into your clean and sparkling tin can. Breaking up the pieces or shaving them down will reduce the time it takes everything to melt, but it isn't strictly necessary. If you are intending to reuse the wick string, make sure to leave it intact inside the candle chunks!

Using caution and a pair of oven mitts or kitchen tongs, lower your tin can into your pot of boiling water. If using a lot of wax, the can will be fairly stable. If not, you might need to hold on while things melt so that the can does not tip over.

I got bored and hot standing there above a pot of boiling water, waiting for my wax to melt. A quick dig through my cupboard turned up a metal strainer that, when set on the pot, still allowed the can to sit in the boiling water without tipping over. Using this method, you no longer have to hold on but it is still important to keep an eye on things, as you would when cooking. You may need to top up the water level every so often.

 If reusing old candles, fish out the wicks with a utensil after the candles have melted. Be prepared with an old plate or a piece of tinfoil, as this process can be a little messy. Use caution; the tin can, wax, and wicks will all be hot enough to burn your skin. Lay the salvaged wicks out to cool for a few minutes before attempting to handle them with your bare hands.

Pour your melted wax into your prepared mould and allow it to sit for several minutes so that it is not so liquid when your place the wick inside, or else you will be standing there holding on for quite some time. After the wax has solidified just a bit, the wicks will stay in place on their own instead of flopping over sideways.
If using a cookie cutter and tinfoil, make sure to press down on the cutter and hold while you pour the wax in order to minimize seepage out the bottom. Again, be careful! The wax will be very hot and if using a metal cutter, it will also get quite warm. Hold for about a half a minute and lessen the pressure for a few seconds. If there is major leakage, press down for a bit longer. If it is minimal, you can leave it to harden. Cooling time will vary based on the size of your molds, so it is best to leave them for at least an hour. Putting your wax-filled molds in the fridge will cool them more quickly.
Once your candles have cooled and the wax has hardened through, you can pop them right out! If the bottom of your mold was not completely flat, you can set your new candles on a warm surface (like a bit of heated tinfoil on a cookie sheet) for a few seconds to melt them into a flatter shape so that they don't wobble. If they are small, you can also try floating them! Trim the wicks and they're ready to light!

Now you have some cute candles to share with your Valentine. 

- Sarah (Volunteer)

Friday, 8 February 2013

Make good fortune (cookies) for Chinese new year

2013 Chinese New Years Day is February 10th and it beckons in the year of the Snake.

Nothing says Chinese New Year to me more than fortune cookies, so exciting to open but who actually eats the cookie itself?  How about making your own? look complicated? would you believe each of these tutorials start off with just a basic circle?
This tutorial uses paper and printed fortunes but I love the idea of writing your own and making them person specific for a special touch especially if you're having people over to eat. Or popping them into your children's lunch box.
Think beyond purchased scrapbooking paper, try old road maps, comics, wall paper samples, we always have plenty of paper here so pop in and see what's in stock.
Handy with a sewing machine? pick up a bag of fabric and get cracking on these beautiful machine stitched Fortune cookies. Wouldn't they look cute stuffed and put on a key chain? or as favours for a wedding or baby shower?
Wishing you good fortune throughout the year in all your crafty, creative and of course recycling endeavours.

- Emma (Volunteer)