Saying a very cheerful good-bye to 2020!

2020, what a year! Everyone likes to say what a horrific year it’s been; admittedly it has had its challenges but I’ve had a good year. It hasn’t been a total success, being in and out of lockdown for over 9 months now, saying ‘…I think you’re on mute’ over and over again to colleagues and adjusting to the ‘new normal’. If anything, this year has proven that most of us have a much bigger sense of humour than we ever imagined. 

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I’m a bit of a meme queen and I adore a good meme. One of the best parts of 2020 has been the memes, hands down! Most of them are so accurate that you have to laugh, there is no other option. I’m pretty sure that most adults went through a stage of quarantine alcoholism during lockdown, no shame, it was a real thing, 95% of us did it. 

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Lockdown and quarantine have reminded me of the Simpsons repeatedly saying, ‘Are we there yet?’ but quarantine rules are more like, ‘Can we leave our houses yet?’ over and over again! 

Working from home started at the end of March and I’ve been in the office 2 days since (in October, literally before the next lockdown was announced). It only took me 7 months but I’ve started to use my office, as an office… I loved working from my kitchen table, primarily for the convenience to the kettle. However, I noticed that my posture was getting worse, a proper chair was the answer, a colleague  suggested I just bring my office chair to the table but that would just look silly. Both the kittens and I have had to adjust to me working from the office. I took them several months to adjust to me being home all the time. The office has now been made cat friendly, a created a window sill seat for them, which gives them (and their rather large fluffy tushies) more space to sit next to me whilst I’m working, a floor mat to lie on and ensured the sofa is clear(ish) to be slept on. They are still both hopeful that I will let them out on the balcony whilst Im working, however, they need to wait til spring…. it’s going to be a long winter. I have a few more tweaks to make but I’m now content to be working on the office. 

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What I’ve achieved in lockdown?Whilst I didn’t blog as frequently as I should have (equally not much to blog about), my year started out well and I made use of time when lock downs were eased. My DIY skills have improved, I adore my she-shed and have an impressive collection of power tools. I’m currently debating how to insulate the shed (possibly my next project?), to make it more user friendly in the winter.  My procrastination skills have become next level, I mean really there is no rush and there is absolutely always tomorrow! I’ve now ninja level of being able to keep myself busy whilst achieving absolutely nothing, as a friend likes to tell me, ‘you’re always busy doing everything and nothing’, it’s impressive and confusing at the same time.  

I completed my tick list for the year, I’m still incredibly excited to think that I did a 13,000 tandem sky dive and want to do it again! I had such good fun with friends doing Wadlopen that I’m trying to plan something for next year but I’m not sure what I have in mind will happen inline with current travel regulations. 

My friends still remain a constant source of entertainment, fun and enlightenment. I think we’ve all helped each other get through 2020, from memes to garden parties (when allowed), to joining me on completing my tick list and generally just mucking around. Im so grateful for all the memories and laughs we’ve made together this year. They continue to encourage me where they shouldn’t, laugh at my dating stories and go along with my crazy ideas, I wouldn’t have them any other way! 

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Its certain that we’re in lock down until mid-January and have been advised not to travel before mid-March, which I think will be extended quite a bit further beyond that… I have to say that I’m trying to be realistic about 2021 and currently I don’t have very high hopes for the year but never say never and given how ‘good’ my 2020, I have hope that 2021 will even be even better. Now to write my tick list for 2021… 

DIY Masks, the latest fashion accessory

In the Netherlands, it was announced that from the 1st of December, masks are required to be worn in most places, grocery stores and anywhere ‘inside’, in short. 

Masks are the latest thing that you literally can’t leave home without! I initially bought masks (I have more than I know what to do with) and then realised that the need to wear a mask really isn’t going away any time soon and disposable masks are just that. I decided to delve into the idea of making my own, washable and reusable. I initially made some in May but I made a ton of mistakes and they’ve all now been binned. I thought I’d share my hints and tips with those who also fancy building your stock of washable reusable masks or just trying it out to see how easy or difficult it is to make a mask. I have a sewing machine, which has made my life much easier but theres no reason why you cant make them at home with hand stitching. Ive now made over 20 and decided to give a few as gifts for Christmas this year.

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I normally wear glasses and have ‘the fog’ whilst wearing a mask. I specifically searched out templates that claimed to fix this. I also bought additional accessories for masks to stop ‘the fog’. To date, Ive had limited success in stopping ‘the fog’. I think the honest answer is to either breath less heavy or not at all, admittedly using these templates and lowering my glasses a few centimetres does seem to help but it doesn’t solve the problem entirely.

I found 2 types of patterns that I wanted to try and it turns out that I prefer 1 pattern over the other.

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Mask patterns/templates:

gigi Patterns and she has a youtube video which shows how to make the mask (you must fill in the silly form to download the template but you can enter fake details). The adult XL was the pattern that I used as the primary template for my masks. I found the Adult L not to be big enough, it literally made me question if I have a big fat head (I think the answer is yet but we just don’t admit these things out loud) and I also wanted a mask where I didn’t feel suffocated, personally the XL was a winner.

SeeKateSew is an incredibly similar pattern to gigi Patterns and the template provides clearer instructions on the mask folds and offers an option to include a filter pocket. I printed out this template to specifically know where I should make the mask folds, very helpful!

Nanay Express is a different pattern from the two above and I think it’s somewhat easier to work with, though some of the points I didn’t fully understand in the Youtube video. I liked that given the way the pattern is, its possible to use 4 different pieces of cloth if you wanted to and if you think about it, its possible to sew it in a way which allows for space for a filter at almost no extra time or effort (see below). However, I didn’t like the way it fits on my chin, to me it just looks weird and once I see it, I cant unsee the chin weirdness.

Here are a few things that I learnt in making my masks, please note that I only made masks for adults and can only comment on the patterns that I used.

  • Always use 100% cotton fabric! The initial masks I made in May I used every kind of fabric I had from satin to velour to polyester, none of these were breathable, cute, felt great on my face but holy crap did I struggle to breath in them.
  • Prewash your fabric and iron it in advance of using it.
  • For the elastic to go around your ears, I tried 3 different lengths (24, 27 and 30cms) and I found that 30cms/1ft worked the best and I ended up using 30cm for all of my masks. This also didn’t give me the feeling of having the mask so tight on my face that I just wanted to take it off.For
  • For the gigi pattern, I learnt to cut off sections on the side before you fold it over to sew for the canal that is for the elastic (I also only fold it once rather than twice). With less fabric it wasn’t as difficult sew, less layers to go threw. It also is less pressure on the side of the face from fewer layers of fabric when you’re wearing it. As per the photos below, after I stitched the the folds, I went back the cut up to about 1cm away from the line and then folded this over once and stitched it for the canal for the elastic.

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  • For the stitches above, I realised it much easier if I get out my pencil and a ruler to ensure that the lines are straight! The first few masks I made, no straight/aligned lines, it gave a new meaning to wonky and I’m beyond crap at eyeballing and thinking its a straight line!
  • Use fun fabrics! Seriously life is too short to use boring or plain fabric! Have fun with it! I found some cute fabrics and have never looked back!

Creating a filter section for the Nanay Express pattern. I decided to have fun with it and user multiple different types of fabric and create an area for a filter to be added without adding another layer of fabric.

I used 3 different fabrics, 2 for the outside of the mask and 1 for the liner. I cut them out as per the template. I have a bit of extra fabric for the edge of liner, so that I sew a clean edge, as per the yellow fabric. 

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I then sewed a straight line down the the front and bottom. 

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Now onto the liner, I completely made it up as I went as to what I should do. I created clean edged on both pieces of fabric and then sewed down the bottom of the pieces of connect them. 

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I then pinned to the fabrics together inside out to few them together, it was at this point that I realised that the hole for the filter could have been much smaller, oh well! 

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The finished mask with the 2 fabrics front he front. The inside of the mask, as you can see where it folds over to cover the nose, could have been one piece rather than open for a filter, as this areas doesn’t need a filter. 

Tags: As I am giving masks as gifts, I wanted to give them with some sort of tag and care instructions. I came across two that I really liked!

Savlabot handmade crafts have a selection of labels and tags for masks that I really liked and have printed off.

The Birch Cottage has some really cute care instructions that I printed off (and slightly altered).

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The above is using the gigi pattern Adult XL, it fits, no weird chin, its not too tight and the fabric makes it a fun mask!

Where I purchase my fabric from in the Netherlands Budget Stoffen, Stoffen en Zo and  Ali Express (for my fun fabrics but it does take over a month to arrive). 

I hope you find these tips useful and remember to share with friends! 🙂

DIY Layered Santa Soap (melt and pour)

It’s that time of year! I am one of these people who truly loves the holidays, I still feel the magic and excitement of the holidays. It probably helps that I always take two weeks off work at the end of the year, so that also gives me something to look forward to in addition to the holidays.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn that my homemade soaps are appreciated and looked forward to more than the presents that I buy my colleagues/friends/family. I now give a mixture of homemade items and bought items. As this soap is specifically Santa themed, they needs to given around the holidays, although I would find it utterly delightful if someone gave it to me in June, I do love when stores are eager and put out one or two items in June!

I have to say that I cant give measurements for this tutorial, as there are lots of little steps. Truthfully speaking, Ive never measured how much I put in each soap, as Ive always eye-balled it (sorry)!

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DIY Layered Santa Soap

  • Clear Melt and pour base – I use Stephenson
  • White Melt and pour base – you will need more white than clear
  • Mica powders (I use red and green) – do not use food colouring as this is not suitable for skin contact
  • Castor oil (or avocado, apricot kernel or almond old) – I use roughly 1-2% oil
  • Essential oil (Peppermint, pine, any holiday scent will work but avoid colours which make discolour the white base – see step) – 1% of overall weight to be used in essential oil, if you have 100g of base, use 1g of essential oil
  • Cellophane or any other kind of plastic to wrap your soaps in
  • Santa mould – I bought mine of Ebay but go wherever suits you
  • Soap moulds – I found Tupperware that suited the size that I needed to fit in Santa
  1. First you need to create your Santa embeds. Melt down a small amount of white soap base and add in the mica. As I only have 1 mould, I spend an evening creating the Santa embeds. I do not add any essential oils to them, I just use the base and mica powder. Once Ive popped them out of their mould, normally I have a bit of excess base around the edges(antlers, toy bag, hooves, etc) and I trim them with a toothpick (second picture). I follow standard melt and pour melting technique of melting it for 20-30 seconds at a time (even around 15 seconds) in a microwave, covered with cling film. I then stir in the mica powder until I get the desired colour and then pour into the mould. I then spray with alcohol to dissolve the air bubbles.

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2. Let your Santa embeds sit for at least 24 hours before you use them in creating your layered soaps. Please also ensure that the mould for your layered soap is big enough put fit whatever shapes you are putting in it. Ive found the Santa mould is slightly longer than standard bar soap moulds you purchase and I found a Tupperware box that suits the size I need. You will want whatever mould you choose to be flexible and made either of plastic or silicone, which will help with releasing the final bar of soap.

3. Melt the clear base and pour it half way into the depth of the bar of soap that you’d like to have. Following standard melt and pour melting technique of melting it for 20-30 seconds at a time in a microwave, covered with cling film. Spray alcohol over this once done (second picture). You need the temperature to be at approximately 120-125F, this will stop the embed melting when added on top.

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3. Spray again with alcohol and add on your Santa embed. This is where temperature makes a difference (120-125F), Ive ruined a number of soaps this way (see below). Spray again with alcohol. You will see that the Santa drops into the clear base, this is what you want, it should not sit on top of the clear base.

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When it doesn’t go to plan: below is what it looks like when you wait too long, you will see a film starting to form over the clear base, NOT good (go ahead and remelt, do not use it in its current state for layering). I thought I was better than the film, as you can see, I was not. When I put Santa on top of the clear base, it sat on top of the base, which is NOT good and then wrinkled when I push it in a bit. The second photo shows how much this does not work when it’s layered. It created air pockets between the clear and mould, when I added in the white base, it filled these air gaps. It also shows the how the film that had formed distorts the Santa and makes it less clear.

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4. Let the Soap and clear base sit for a few hours before adding on the white base. Even with the lower temperatures, you want to ensure there isn’t a tie-dye/bleeding effect. Melt your white base and add in the oil and essential oils (please note that EU regulation states that you should not use more than 1% of essential oils), spray the clear base with embed with alcohol and pour over the white base mixture. Spray with alcohol. Allow to set over night or several hours before removing from mould.

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5. Wrap your soaps after they have set in either cellophane or a plastic of some sort. I completely forgot to take pictures of the soaps before I wrapped them! These were my finished soaps. The green top soaps are where I screwed the process and let the white layer set before adding in the embeds, the red soaps are the happy soaps where everything went to plan.

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Tips: Use an essential oil which will not discolour your base. I thought I was being clever (which normally means I’m not) and used cherry and vanilla for a number of soaps, within hours the discolouration started and its only gotten darker. You’ll see the top 5 soaps are darker than the bottom soaps, this is where I used the cherry and vanilla essential oils… They have since gotten much darker! For the bottom soaps I used peppermint and pine. (I also made coffee soaps as you can see, no guessing what home made soaps everyones getting this year) 🙂

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I hope this tutorial inspires your Christmas soap creations! Please borrow/steal my idea and share with friends. Id love to see Santa soaps in June!

Remember to share with friends! 🙂