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! 🙂

Winter Spice Jelly – A deliciously delicate infused jam for winter

Halloween has come and on and so have the cats outfits. The cats are pleased that torture will not come their way in the form of clothing for another year.

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Winter is here, the clocks have gone back, there is less day light and it seems like my body is preparing for hibernation mode, as in lets eat as much as possible and then sleep (if only I could be a bear and sleep for months!). Im constantly hungry at the moment and cant seem to sate the hunger feeling. Im also in a jamming mood, so I was thinking of jams to make that would hopefully satisfy the hunger and of course make the house smell deliciously ‘wintery’ at the same time. This recipe has ticked all my boxes and is crazy delicious on toast or bagels.

I kind of love this recipe which Im modified from the BBC. I originally tried it a few years ago with pears and it came incredibly cloudy and with a different flavour. This time it came out great, I didn’t add in the spices to jam once it was made as per the original recipe, as I think it was going to flavour the jam further and I really didn’t want that. I love the complete delicate flavour this recipe has, its subtle, leaving you wanting more!

I also doubled the recipe, as Im incapable of doing anything at the suggested measurements.

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Ingredients:

  • 1kg cooking apples (I also used 2 large pears)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (I didnt have any and used 1tsp of ground cinnamon)
  • 2 star anise
  • 8 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 2 long pieces lemon peel
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1KG of jam sugar per 900grams of grape juice (please note this may differ based on the sugar you are using, I used a very specific jamming sugar)
  • 100ml apple cider vinegar

Method:

1. Wash and cut up the apples into chunks, without peeling or coring them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavour in the peels). Dump the apple into a large  heavy bottomed pan with the spices, lemon peel and bay leaves. Cover the apples and spices with 600ml water. Once it comes to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer with a lid on for 1 1⁄2 hrs. (left picture is with everything in my large pot and the right picture is when it started to boil and I turned it down to a simmer)

2. Ladle the apple mixture into a sieve lined with muslin (or a jelly bag) suspended over a large bowl. Leave to drip for 2 hrs (until it stops dripping) or overnight. Do not push the liquid though the sieve or your jelly will become cloudy. (Left picture: ladling the mixture into my sieve lined with muslin. Right Picture: muslin line sieve over a large bowl, leaving it to drip).

3. At this stage I start to sterilise my jars, I put them in the oven at 180C for 30 mins, which is roughly about the amount of time to takes for the jelly/jam to cook.

4. Measure the juice – you should have about 600ml (left picture: I doubled the recipe and had more). Pour the liquid into a large pan along with the jam sugar(far right picture, I use a very specific jamming sugar) and vinegar (middle picture).

4. Set over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, stirring constantly. Once dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to the boil and follow the instructions of your sugar. Mine asks me to boil for X mins, whilst others may require you to use a candy thermometer to get it to a certain temperature (left picture: adding in the jamming sugar and vinegar).

5. You will notice a foam on the top of your jam (also known as scum), remove it. The foam has a different texture and colour from your jam/jelly, it is simply fine air bubbles. If you don’t remove it from your jam before processing, you will have the foam on the top of your jelly/jam, taking away from the perfect finish (top right picture).

6. It’s normally at this point that I put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes.

7. Once you have reached your desired temperature or completed the instructions, remove from heat, skim off any remaining foam and pour into the sterilised hot jars. I ladle the mixture into jars using a jam funnel, it makes life much easier! My instructions for my jamming sugar is also to tip the jars upside down and allow to cool completely.

I wont lie, I was pleasantly surprised with the subtle understated taste this jam has. I’m use to big flavours that have a punch but this doesn’t and its refreshingly light for a winter inspired jam. 

I was so pleased with this jam and the other preserves I made, that I posted it to a friend and colleague. He was delighted with the homemade goods and pleased that despite not being in the office for over 7 months, he was still got my treats. 

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Remember to share for with your friends, family or neighbours 🙂

Citrus Shower Steamers

I’m in love with shower steamers, a few weeks ago I posted about Shower Steamers for congestion. They work really well and I even use one in the shower if I’m not congested. I’ve gotten a lot of postive feedback on them and they seem to perfect for winter (and a great party favour!).

I decided to make a alternative that isn’t specific for congestion. Ive decided to go for a blend of citrus, a burst of freshness in the shower. Shower steamers really work based on aromatherapy and citrus is awesome with lots of benefits. Several benefits to citrus essential oils are, they can help to alleviate headaches and fever, are a quick mood enhancer, can relieve fatigue and relieve seasonal allergies. Thus making citrus oils a awesome win! I think these shower steamers are great for people who take showers in the morning, they will give you a boost to start the day off right.

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Citrus Shower Steamers

Makes: Approximately 60 small cubes  Prep time: 10 mins  Making time: 10 mins Setting time: 5-8 hours (best over night)  Total time: 5 hours 20 mins minimum

  • 1 cup Baking soda
  • 1/2 cup Citric Acid
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 1 teaspoon menthol crystals that have been dissolved in 2-3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol (not to be left out, these are the MAGIC ingredient that makes these so good)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet orange essential oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon essential Oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime essential Oil
  • Mica- colour of your choice, I went for light orange (optional)
  • Mini ice cube tray – I bought mine on Wish
  • A seperate small cup disposable cup for your menthol crystals (seriously the crystals will continue to grow and its best to have something you can throw away or purposely dedicate just to THIS project)

For safety purposes you should also have: dust mask and gloves

1. Take your teaspoon of menthol crystals and dissolve them in 2-3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol. They wont just dissolve on their own, you will need to stir them, it will take a few minutes. I tend to give them a bit of a crush before I mix them in the alcohol, I assume I’m making my life easier by doing this. I use a toothpick or straw to stir. As the menthol WILL form crystals on the cup and whatever you are using to stir it with, make sure that you have no commitment to said item and its disposable (as per the right picture, its the same cup I use for this recipe, forming crystals). Menthol crystals are NOT water soluble, so simply crushing them up and adding them to this mixture will not work or give you the desired results.

2. Put on your mask and gloves. In a bowl, combine your citric acid, baking soda and mica (if using), breaking any lumps. I put mine through a sieve to help with lumps. Give it a good mix with your hand, this helps to evenly disperse the colour (wont lie, forgot this step and it did make a difference at the end when mixing).

3. Add in your essential oils and crystal menthol mixture and mix throughly. At this point your mixture is either ready to use or isn’t. If you are able to get it to form in your hand when you squeeze it, you’re on to a winner (far right picture). If it doesn’t hold it form when you squeeze it, then add in the rest of your rubbing alcohol, mix again and it should now hold its form when you squeeze it.

4. Now to put the shower steam mixture in your moulds. Try for the middle of the mould and work your way out. Ensure to press your mixture into each individual mould, you want it to be packed in and solid, I use my thumb to press in the mixture in EACH individual mould.

5. Leave them to dry, honestly I think over night is best. If you’re in a rush or made them in the morning, give them at least 5-6 hours to set. As it is alcohol which was used to combine them, it will evaporate on its own over time.

6. Once dry, turn out and ideally place them in a air tight box/container. Ive got mine in jars in my bathroom. You want to keep them dry from humidity. You can also make gifts with them and put them in clear bags (10 per bag) and jars (25ish per jar), with the following instructions:

TO USE: Place 1-3 steamers on the floor of your shower, where it will get wet but not directly under the water. Let the aromas clear your sinuses/congestion as you breathe in deeply. Store in an airtight container. Humidity will cause them to break down. Use within 1 month for best scent and results. WARNINGS: Not to be used in the bath as a bath bomb or to have direct contact with skin. Keep out of reach of children.

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These are my shower steamers, the white ones are for congestion and the orange are the citrus. Ideally Ill have matching jars but this is what happens when you go to the store for matching jars, get to the till to pay and realise you’ve forgotten your wallet on the sofa.

Notes: These are not bath bombs and should not be treated as such, whilst the ingredients are similar, I wouldn’t recommend or tell anyone to use them in the bath, if you want a bath bomb, make/buy a bath bomb, if you want a shower steamer, then THIS is the recipe for you!

Other shower steamers/melts/fizzy/bomb use water in it, why doesn’t this recipe? This is a conscious choice that I have made NOT to use water. Water, no matter how much, reacts with the citric acid causing it to fizz and puff instantly, adding too much water can RUIN any steamers/melts/fizzy/bomb recipe, which is something that I have done MORE than once.

Remember to save some for yourself and share with friends! 🙂

 

DIY: Soothing bath bombs for dry skin

Winter skin is not only a REAL thing, its painful. My skin is somewhere between tree bark, elephant skin, and the dessert. I woke up in the middle of the night with pain on my back from dry skin, where it hurt to just lie in the bed, that was really not pleasant. In addition to all my body butters, which have made things better, I wanted something more (more, more, more!!!). Baths are really not my forte’, they are a good sign that Im dying of flu and sickness. However, desperate times call for desperate measures. Ive come up with these bath bombs that are meant to soothe and nourish dry and unhappy skin.

The below information tells you what makes these bath bombs so good for your skin:

  • Baking Soda: antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Citric Acid: can brighten skin, shrink pores, treat mild acne, and correct dark spots and fine lines.
  • Ground oats (colloidal oatmeal): moisturising, restores the skin barrier, reduces itching, and regulates inflammation.
  • Himalayan Pink Salt: full of minerals that makes the overall body happy, detoxifies the skin,  balances your skin pH, and soothes aches and pains.
  • Cornstarch: soothes irritations of the skin, including sunburn and skin allergies.
  • Castor oil: fights skin disorders and infections, reduces itching and swelling on the skin, and moisturises skin.
  • Tea tree essenital oil: relieves many types of skin inflammation, aids healing and protects from infection.
  • Sweet orange essential oil: anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, and aphrodisiac (wink).

I wont lie, bath bombs are a labour of love and effort, its not like mixing everything, banging them together and calling it done. Its a series of steps and trial and error until you get the recipe and bath bomb that you are happy with.

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DIY Soothing Bath Bombs for Dry Skin

Makes: 4.5 large bathbombs  Prep time: HOURS  Making time: 20 mins Setting time:8-12 hours (best over night)  Total time: A LOT

  • 1 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • 1/2 cup ground pink Himalayan salt (if you dont grind it down, you’ll find yourself sitting on lumps of salt until they dissolve)
  • 1/2 cup ground oats (do not use quick oats, put them in a coffee grinder to make a fine skin friendly powder)
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons castor oil
  • 1/4 c rubbing alcohol
  • 10 vitamin e capsules (that I cut in half and then squeezed into the mixture)
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 15 drops sweet orange essential oil

For the embeds I used 1/4 c baking soda and 1/4c citric acid (you use a 1:1 mix) and combined with rubbing alcohol, it made 10 medium sized embeds. Experienced bath bombers swear by them, insisting that they help the bomb move around your bath and give extra fizz. You dont HAVE to use them but Im kind of bored with mine sinking like the Titanic and thought Id give it a try and see, not like I didn’t have the ingredients. Many people use mica/coloring in their embeds but I prefer my bath bombs to be more natural (and not dye my bath tube or me), so I dont use colourings in my embeds or bath bombs.

Now to make these skin happy bath bombs (dont forget to use gloves and a face mask when making these).

1. Sift your baking soda and citric acid into a bowl. Break any lumps that remain at the bottom of the sifter and throw away any that wont be crushed. Next add in your ground oats, pink Himalayan salt, and cornstarch.

2. Add in your oils, essential oils, and vitamin e. Mix thoroughly with your hands, dispersing the oils throughout the mixture.

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3. Add in your rubbing alcohol, mixing thoroughly. The mixture should now form clumps in your hand when you squeeze it.

4. Now to form your balls. The best bath bombs are those that aren’t over packed, they should be light. Fill each half of the mould, packing the mixture in slightly until it’s overflowing. Fill both sides of your bath bombs, making a hole in the middle of one, insert your embed into the hole and then smoosh them together. Lightly tap the mould and gently pull it apart to remove the bath bomb.

5. I take the tops off my moulds (as above) and allow them to sit over night, which allows them to harden and the alcohol to evaporate. When you are ready to remove your bath bombs from the moulds, tap the mould against a spoon/table to loosen the bath bomb and then slide out.

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Your bath bombs are now finished and ready to be used. I allow mine to sit out a few days to ensure that all the alcohol has evaporated.

 

Notes: Why I dont use water in my bath bombs? I always use alcohol because it doesn’t cause of the ingredients to react. Water is reactive with the citric acid and it will automatically start to ‘blossom’ and too much water will ruin your entire batch. I can be a bit heavy handed to, so using alcohol stops this. As the bath bomb is being dissolved in gallons upon gallons of water, it dilutes any remaining alcohol making it safe to use. Alcohol also gives your bath bombs a hard texture, making them less delicate than those made with water. Because alcohol evaporates more quickly than water, you can use these bath bombs quicker than those made with water.

Colours: You can buy something called Polysorbate 80 which ensures that the colours dont stick to you or your bath tub, awesome. However, Im weird about these things and my own personal luck means that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I personally, dont like the idea of bathing in colour. The idea of a bath is to get clean, not cover myself in glitter or colour (very ungirly of me I know), but this is why I dont use colours or glitter in my bath bombs. I want them to be true treat for your skin.

Moulds: I remembered that years ago I bought some empty Christmas baubles and went through all my Christmas stuff and found them, HORAY! I have found these easier to use than standard metal moulds. If you are removing the bath bomb entirely from the mould to dry, you MUST pad the area, professionals tend to use egg crate foam, as they will dent otherwise, as per the pictures below with my last batch that I made with metal moulds.

Ground Oats: I use a coffee grinder that I use purely for my crafting but as long as you clear is thoroughly, its not a problem. Chuck your oats in the grinder and grind away until you have a very fine powder. Never use ready/instant/quick oats for bath soaks or bath bombs.

Ground pink Himalayan salt: Using your grinder, grind down the salt. This is help it to dissolve more quickly in the water. I found out when I didnt grind down the salt, I was sitting on bits of salt, whilst thinking ‘What is that?!’.

You WILL need to rinse down your bath and yourself after your bath bomb experience. You will find little bits of oat on yourself and all over your bathtub.

Baths should be relaxing and a bit of a personal spa, with these bath bombs, you’re giving your skin a treat, whilst providing a great dose of aromatherapy whilst indulging in ‘me time’!

Create your own spa and share with friends! 🙂

Shower Steamers – fighting congestion in the shower

My shower is my haven. It’s a small cubicle (apparently large by Dutch standards) that seems to have magical powers that allow me my finest and best thinking. Sadly, it seems to be that time of year where the flu, colds, and stuffy heads are common on these long cold dark days. When I’m ill, all I want is to be able to breathe without having to think how its done, utilising the steam from the shower as a lifeline to being able to think and breathe again.

I’ve come up with these super awesome shower steamers that fizzle away in your shower, using aroma therapy to clear your head and sinuses, allowing me to have my  shower back! I have to say that I’m quite impressed with the outcome and even now put them in the shower when Im not feeling stuffy, I’m not sure if this makes me a shower steamer addict or not? I’ve given them out and had positive feedback, so I’d call these a win and a delight for your otherwise stuffy senses. As long as they are not placed directly under water, they should last 5-8 minutes each.

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Shower Steamers

Makes: Approximately 50-60 small cubes  Prep time: 10 mins  Making time: 10 mins Setting time: 5-8 hours (best over night)  Total time: 5 hours 20 mins minimum

  • 1 cup Baking soda
  • 1/2 cup Citric Acid
  • 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol (I probably use more)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Eucalyptus essential oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 1 teaspoon menthol crystals that have been dissolved in 2-3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol (not to be left out, these are the MAGIC ingredient that makes these so good)
  • Mica- color of your choice (optional)
  • Mini ice cube tray – I bought mine on Wish
  • A seperate small cup disposable cup for your menthol crystals (seriously the crystals will continue to grow and its best to have something you can throw away or purposely dedicate just to THIS project)

Please note for the pictures, I did double the recipe, hence why I have so much in the pictures!

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For safety purposes you should also have: dust mask and gloves

1. Take your teaspoon of menthol crystals and dissolve them in 2-3 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol. They wont just dissolve on their own, you will need to stir them, it will take a few minutes. I tend to give them a bit of a crush before I mix them in the alcohol, I assume I’m making my life easier by doing this. I use a toothpick or straw to stir. As the menthol WILL form crystals on whatever you are using to stir it with, make sure that you have no commitment to said item and its disposable, (menthol crystals are NOT water soluble, so simply crushing them up and adding them to this mixture will not work or give you the desired results).20180111_121252

2. Put on your mask and gloves. In a bowl, combine your citric acid, baking soda and mica (if using), breaking any lumps. Give it a good mix with your hand.

3. Add in your essential oils, mix throughly, you’ll notice the texture of the mixture change slightly but a small sniff into how nice your shower will smell. Add in your crystal menthol mixture and mix thoroughly.

4. At this point your mixture is either ready to use or isn’t. If you are able to get it to form in your hand when you squeeze it, you’re on to a winner. If it doesn’t hold it form when you squeeze it (left picture), then add in the rest of your rubbing alcohol, mix again and it should now hold its form when you squeeze it (right picture).

5. Now to put the shower steam mixture in your moulds. Try for the middle of the mould and work your way out. Ensure to press your mixture into each individual mould, you want it to be packed in and solid, I use my thumb to press in the mixture in EACH individual mould.

6. Leave them to dry, honestly I think over night is best. If you’re in a rush or made them in the morning, give them at least 5-6 hours to set. As it is alcohol which was used to combine them, it will evaporate on its own over time.

7. Once dry, turn out and ideally place them in a air tight box/container. I made gifts out of mine and put them in clear bags (10 per bag) and jars (25ish per jar), with the following instructions:

TO USE: Place 1-3 steamers on the floor of your shower, where it will get wet but not directly under the water. Let the aromas clear your sinuses/congestion as you breathe in deeply. Store in an airtight container. Humidity will cause them to break down. Use within 1 month for best scent and results. WARNINGS: Not to be used in the bath as a bath bomb or to have direct contact with skin. Keep out of reach of children.

Notes: These are not bath bombs and should not be treated as such, whilst the ingredients are similar, I wouldn’t recommend or tell anyone to use them in the bath, if you want a bath bomb, make/buy a bath bomb, if you want a shower steamer, then THIS is the recipe for you!

Other shower steamers/melts/fizzy/bomb use water in it, why doesn’t this recipe? This is a conscious choice that I have made NOT to use water. Water, no matter how much, reacts with the citric acid causing it to fizz and puff instantly, adding too much water can RUIN any steamers/melts/fizzy/bomb recipe, which is something that I have done MORE than once.

Remember to save some for yourself and share with friends! 🙂

DIY natural lip plumping cinnamon lip balm

On the same night I made my yummy fruity strawberry lip balm, I also decided to make another sweet lip treat. I think one of my life mottos should be ‘life is better with cinnamon!’. So this is a cinnamon lip balm which works as a natural lip plumper, you will feel it gently tingling away on your lips.

Lip plumpers work by irritating your lips, your lips reaction to the irritation is to swell up and just like MAGIC you have fuller more plump lips. What you really want is a small to mild reaction, you dont want anything to feel as though it is ‘on fire’ or ‘inflamed’.  Inflaming your skins is generally not something we seek to do but as you are applying a soothing lip balm, it acts to also moisturise your lips at the same time.  Please also refer to my WARNING and CAUTION at the bottom of this post.

You can use white beeswax for a more white filling and you can even add in literally just a dash (no more) of ground cinnamon if you fancy spots throughout your lip balm.

DIY natural lip plumping cinnamon lip balm

Makes: 7 lip balms Making time: 30 mins  Dry time: 24 hours minimum Overall time: 25 hours

  • 1 tablespoon (14g) grated beeswax or beeswax pellets – I used yellow beeswax because its what I had
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) shea butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet almond oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon castor oil
  • 5g Mango butter (I used a small piece from the pot)
  • 5 drops Cinnamon essential oil

Now to make these nourishing balms

1.  Over  a ban marie or double boiler (or cheat like I do and use a milk jug in a pan with water) add the beeswax, shea butter, almond oil, castor oil and mango butter in a small heat proof bowl. Bring the water to the boil and then allow to simmer, until the mixture is just melted. You can stir the mixture but you dont need to stir it constantly.

2. Whilst your oils and butter are melting together, get your lip balm containers ready. I find it easy to put five (5) together and wrap a rubber band (loom bands work perfectly) around them, this stops them falling over when filling them. I also like to put them in a small plastic container, so that if there is any spillage, its contained. I find it easier to use my Pyrex jug making lip balm, as the spout on the jug allows for easy pouring.

3.  Once fully melted, turn off heat and take container out of the pan. Allow your lip balm mixture to cool.  If you add in the essential oil now, it can damage it. You dont want it to solidify but just to be cooler. Once it has cooled down, add in your cinnamon essential oil and stir well.

4. Pour the mixture into the lip balm tubes and allow to cool completely. Between Do NOT pour all of the mixture into the tubes (leave 1-2 teaspoons spare). As your mixture cools, A (small) depression will form in the center, use the spare balm that you didn’t use to fill this in, leaving a even finish. Simply reheat the leftover balm and top up the tubes. Allow your lip balms to set over night.

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I always keep 1 of each batch for myself (I highlight the edges so that its always clear which one is mine), then I have first hand experience of it the balms are too soft, too hard, overly/underly flavoured. There is always one in each run that is never quite perfect, so I call it mine.

 

CAUTION and WARNING using Cinnamon Essential Oil: Cinnamon essential oil must be use with caution and not with a heavy hand. Do not increase the number of drops in your lip balm, as it can irritate your lips. Cinnamon essential oil is a known irritant and strong skin sensitizer. Do not substitute or use the bark essential oil, it is really NOT skin friendly. Also should you ever have a cinnamon soap (which I love), NEVER wash your genitals or sensitive areas with it. 

This is just a word of caution (and to avoid people going crazy), I never had any problems with this lip balm but know that every person reacts differently to different products, even all natural ones.

Remember to share with friends! 🙂

 

 

DIY fruity Strawberry lip balm

A all natural tinted yummy lip balm.

I know Ive previously done two other lip balms but this weekend I had lip balm on my mind. I wanted something different and yummy, something that will leave you wanting to lick your lips whilst nourishing them at the same time. Ive come up with a fruity strawberry lip balm using freeze dried strawberries (NEVER use fresh/frozen). After seeing the sites of Amsterdam, I came home and made these at 11pm, thats just how Rock ‘N Roll I am!

The hardest part of this easy to follow tutorial is cleaning out the coffee grinder to remove all the pink dust! (you’ve been warned)  You can use any freeze dried fruit for this recipe if you’re feeling adventurous, I bought it at my local grocery story but you can can buy it online or at local health-food store.

DIY Strawberry Lip Balm

Makes: 7 lip balms Making time: 30 mins  Dry time: 24 hours minimum Overall time: 25 hours

  • 1 tablespoon (14g) grated beeswax or beeswax pellets – I used yellow beeswax because its what I had
  • 1 tablespoon (14g) shea butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet almond oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon castor oil
  • 5g Mango butter (I used a small piece from the pot)
  • 1 tsp ground freeze dried strawberries
  • 5 drops Vanilla essential oil (optional and honestly I cant tell that it makes any difference at all)

Now to make these nourishing balms

1.  Over  a ban marie or double boiler (or cheat like I do and use a milk jug in a pan with water) add the beeswax, shea butter, almond oil, castor oil and mango butter in a small heat proof bowl. Bring the water to the boil and then allow to simmer, until the mixture is just melted. You can stir the mixture but you dont need to stir it constantly.

2. Whilst your oils and butter are melting together, get your lip balm containers ready. I find it easy to put five (5) together and wrap a rubber band (loom bands work perfectly) around them, this stops them falling over when filling them. I also like to put them in a small plastic container, so that if there is any spillage, its contained. I find it easier to use my Pyrex jug making lip balm, as the spout on the jug allows for easy pouring.

3. Grind down your strawberries. (Remember you cannot use fresh/frozen strawberries, they must be freeze dried) I used a coffee grinder but a pestle and mortar also works. My coffee grinder is specifically for my hobbies but cleaning it after the strawberries was quite the mess – be sure to scrape it all out! As you can see, the strawberries didn’t entirely grind down, so you will need a small sieve for the next step.

4. Once the lip balm mixture has fully melted, turn off heat and take container out of the pan. Put your small sieve over the container and pour in the ground strawberries and sieve them, discarding any left over chunks you may have. Give it stir. Allow your mixture to slightly cool, now add in the vanilla essential oil if using.  If it you let it sit, you will notice it starts to seperate, STIR IT.

5. Pour the mixture into the lip balm tubes and allow to cool completely. Between Do NOT pour all of the mixture into the tubes (leave 1-2 teaspoons spare). As your mixture cools, A (small) depression will form in the center, use the spare balm that you didn’t use to fill this in, leaving a even finish. Simply reheat the leftover balm and top up the tubes. Allow your lip balms to set over night.

Technically now you are done with your lip balm, HORRAY.  Like last time, I decided to take it a step further and created the labels for the tubes. I have glossy adhesive sheets, which were perfect for this! Be sure to clean the outside of your tubes before applying the labels! You will have drips and this will affect the adhesion!

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These are my finished all natural tinted yummy strawberry lip balm.

Remember to share with friends! 🙂

DIY Moisturising Body Butter for ladies

Recently I did a tutorial on body butter for men, it’s a great whipped body butter and I’ve been told that it works a great and also works well for psoriasis by my aunt.

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I’m currently in the states for turkey day (sorry turkeys) and decided that not only would I bring a LOT and I mean a LOT of soap that Ive made (as per the above picture) and I would make various lotions for the family. Just a quick note to say that whilst Europe seriously doesn’t seem to care about the transport of soap in your hand luggage, America’s TSA take personal offence at them (apparently the shape and weight make it very suspect), be prepared for questions and searches, even when you’ve already cleared two other security points! I decided that not only would I make lotion for my dad but Id also make some whipped body butter for my nana and mother (and secretly Id make something for myself). I made three versions of this (yes, I made a LOT of body butter for the lay-deez), geranium (Jesus, this is a scent that I honestly did not get on with, it actually made me gag and smelt nothing like roses! I was literally turning my head away as I whipped it trying not to breath), lemongrass, and tea tree and eucalyptus body butter.

Why this whipped body butter is good for you?

  • Shea butter: It contains vitamins A and E and is rich in fats that make it an excellent emollient and skin moisturising agent.
  • Coconut oil: It has antibacterial properties, protects against fungal infections and can prevent premature ageing.
  • Sweet almond oil: Enriched with vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, proteins, potassium, zinc, and a number of other minerals and vitamins. It is a mild, hypoallergenic oil, it moisturises the skin without irritating it further, its good for eczema and psoriasis.
  • Castor oil: Heals inflamed skin, reduces acne, moisturises skin, fades blemishes, prevents stretch marks and reduces pigmentation.
  • Mango butter: Due to its rich minerals and vitamin content, it can heal scars. It is high linoleic and oleic acid content, making it good at maintaining the skin’s elasticity and flexibility.
  • Vitamin e oil: Can improve the appearance and texture of rough and dry skin due to its role in maintaining skin barrier function and helping the skin to retain water.

What is the difference between body butter and lotion? Good question and one that is frequently asked. Immediately you’ll notice that body butter is much ticker than lotion, this is because it has no water content (mine doesn’t). This  means a little goes a long way with body butter and provides longer lasting moisture. As lotion has a high(er) water content, it feels and applies lighter and absorbs much more quickly into the skin.

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DIY Whipped Body Butter For Ladies

Makes: 210g(ish) Prep time: 5 mins Cooling time: 3+ hours Overall time: 4 hours minimum

  • 1/2 cup (110g) Shea butter
  • 1/4 cup (55g) Coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup (55g) Mango butter
  • 1/8 cup (30ml) Sweet almond oil
  • 1/8 cup (30ml) Castor oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
  • 20 drops essential oil – as above, I made 3 batches which were geranium, lemongrass, and tea tree and eucalyptus – I added a few more drops to get a more intense scent
  • Clean pots to put your product into or when all else fails, tupperwear!

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How to make this girly body butter:

1. Over a double boiler combine the shea butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, and mango butter. Once its all completely melted, combined and no lumps at all, remove from the heat. 20171115_133035.jpg

2. Allow your mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes. Once it has cooled down, add in your essential oil and vitamin e oil. If you add the essential oil whilst its melting or still very hot, they can be damaged by temperatures in excess of 100F (38C). This can result in reducing their therapeutic value and may cause skin irritation.20171115_134850.jpg

3. Now the waiting game starts, you need to wait for it all to cool down and start to solidify before you can start whipping it. For me, this literally took HOURS and HOURS. I tried beating it a few times in hope that it was ready and it just really wasn’t! In the end, I left it overnight (bottom left), and it was solidified and ready to be whipped. The top left and top right picture are the various stages of it solidifying and me trying to whip it and it just not working. Now that I have made so many of these, it really does whip best once its solidified. Once it is good to go, use your hand mixer and whip it good! I whipped mine for easily 5 minutes but probably closer to 10, you want medium peaks but not soft floppy peaks.

4. Now to take your whipped body butter and put it in a pot and label them. When putting it in the pot, you will need to tap the air out of the pot where you’re putting it in the pot. I lightly (or not so lightly) tap the pot against a counter top to release any air bubbles in the pot, yes, this does make the lotion slightly less airy but not enough to make a difference and it ensures you fill your pot entirely.

I created labels for the pots, so that there wasn’t a mystery as to what is in them. I used a glossy self adhesive printer paper (for laser, as thats what I have), measured the pots and changed the font according to the size of the pot. As with anything you’re giving to someone, its best to list all the ingredients to avoid any allergic reactions.

The great thing about this whipped body butter is that you dont need much at all, a little really does go a long way. I use it as a day and night cream for my face, along with as a lotion for my hands and body, so it really is an all in one body butter/cream. I personally like lemon grass as a face and body butter, as its not overly strong in scent and doesn’t seem to affect the scent if I wear a perfume. Tea tree and eucalyptus are also great for the same reason but does smell slightly more strong.

This is a great example of how truly easy it is to make your own products or products that will moisturise and nourish you and your family.

*Notes: you do not have to whip this body butter, you can use it as is once its solidified, however, whipping it gives it a fluffier and lighter texture.

*When making body butters, potions, lotions, soaps or any body product, always make sure that the equipment, spoons, bowls etc you use will NEVER be used for edible purposes again and are only used to make body products with.

*When using any essential oils directly or indirectly on skin, ensure that you stay out of sunlight or UV rays for up to 12 hours after application. This might sound quirky but as per this article, the combination of sun and essential oils can cause the skin to severely burn and blister.

Remember to share with friends or just keep it all for yourself! 🙂

DIY Gift: Hot Chocolate on a Spoon

Does being a hostess mean I have the mostess? Since starting my social group for expats, I seem to be hosting far more gatherings and events than I ever have, from parent and baby groups to ladies who chat over coffee and adult evenings where chat is had over a lot of beer. Having a sense of humour and being able to laugh at my own awkwardness helps a lot, I host parent and baby groups and yet have no children. The other parents naturally ask, ‘Do you have children?’, I awkwardly smile and say ‘No, I’m a crazy cat lady, just cats for me.’ I do get a lot of strange looks but they seem to be grateful the meet up has been arranged, so I get a pass, even if it is a slightly awkward one.

I recently hosted an expat event, it was equally horrifying and exciting. I decided that pizza and beer would be a great theme, its casual and yet combines two things adults love. I would make the pizza and the people would bring the beer (the irony here is that *I* dont actually drink beer). Then I secretly prayed that I wouldn’t have any gluten-free attendees. The pressure one person can put on themselves to host an event is incredible! I decided it wasn’t enough to open up my home (spending a day in advance cleaning it to be pretend like Im some sort of organised and tidy adult), to buy all the ingredients and make the pizzas from scratch, along with brownies and snacks, no no, I also needed to give a thank you gift to the attendees who came. Yes, Im sure its party planning rule 101 – one must give a gift of thanks for those who take the time to attend. Right! Great, now I need gifts, what gift do I give? Homemade gifts are the best gifts to give, it shows you’ve taken the time and initiative to make something, because clearly everything you’ve done above simply isn’t enough. 🙂 I thought, its practically winter, cold, rainy and what is something I can play on with that, and then like any good idea a light bulb went off, HOT CHOCOLATE!!! As I shouted ‘giddy up’ and fist pumped in the air, I started to make the list of things to buy to make these gifts.

Ive previously made hot chocolate on a spoon (normally I give it to close friends at Christmas with their gifts) and have learnt what I like and what preferences people seem to like. Hot chocolate on a stick is VERY popular, its all over Pinterest and other internet locations. However, Im not a fan of sticks, I think of sticks and have visions of dogs running across a field with a large dirty muddy dribble soaked stick in its mouth. Oh hell no! Im equally awkward when I go into coffee chains and they only have the little wooden stirrers and I think ‘surely be an adult means Im capable of using an actual spoon!?”, I know, environmentally friendly, rah rah rah blah blah blah, just give me a spoon! I also find the texture of a stirrer weird on my tongue but we wont get into that.

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Makes: 15 shot sized glasses   Prep time: 15 mins  Cook time: 20 mins   Mixing and Filling time: 15 mins Total time: 50 mins

What you need to make these really great drinkable treats:

  • 9 oz. milk chocolate (not chips)  – I used 3 x100 gram bars
  • 7 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (not chips) – I used 2 x 100 gram bars
  • 1/2 c (59g) cocoa powder
  • 1 c (115g) powdered sugar/icing sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoons salt
  • 2 (10g) teaspoons ground cinnamon (or go wild and use pumpkin pie spice!)
  • 15 large marshmallows or 150 mini marshmallows
  • 7 mini candy canes (optional) – I put a mini candy cane in every other hot chocolate made, some people dont like them, so lets not force them to eat it.

Supplies

  • Plastic spoons
  • Plastic shot glasses (approx. 15) – you can use glass shot glasses ( you can use them to mould the mixture or you can give them away as part of the gift.
  • Cellophane to wrap each gift
  • Ribbon to wrap around each gift and to attach the label with

*Please note that I doubled the recipe for the pics below as I knew I wanted to make a lot and I couldn’t find shot glasses but I found double shot glasses instead, sure lets do that!

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Now to make these awesome drinkable treats:

1.  Chop chocolate into small pieces (or you can grate it if you really fancy it) and combine in a glass bowl. You can either microwave in 30 second bursts on 50% power, stirring between each burst, or you can use a double boiler (as I did) and allow it to melt over slowly over simmering water.

I was a bit of a idiot and thought super hot water = quicker melting time and actually seized the chocolate. Not going to lie, I didn’t even realise that you could ‘seize’ chocolate. I was able to rescue mine (hooray!) but play it safe and melt it slowly.

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2. In a separate bowl, sift together cocoa, powdered sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. You need individually grease each shot glass (THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!!!), I used vegetable oil on a paper towel (kitchen roll) and lightly greased the inside of each shot glass.  This allows easy removal of hot chocolate once its set.

3. Once the chocolate has completely melted, mix in the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Mixture will be very thick, similar to brownie batter.

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4. I used two teaspoons and spooned the chocolate mixture into each cup or you can spoon the mixture into a piping bag (no coupler or tip is needed) and pipe it into the cups. I find the mixture too thick if Im honest and thought it easier just to spoon it into the shot glasses.

After you have filled all your shot glasses, shove a spoon in each one, ensure that it is straight, this will allow for easier wrapping. I then took a large marshmallow, cut it down the middle half way through (NOT all the way through) and then shove it over the spoon. When using mini marshmallows, I put 4 around the spoon and then just before I tie the bag up, I shove in about 6 more, as 4 mini marshmallows isnt enough!

Leave chocolates to dry a few hours.  Once all shots are dry, you can remove carefully from the glasses, the heat from your hand should be enough to release them from the glass, (obviously plastic is thin and this takes longer with an actual glass shot) wrap hand around glass around 10-15 seconds. I released each glass but put them back in the glass, to make it easier to remove when the giftee receives them and uses them.

I created the attached template that I use for labels on every cup. I print it back and front and it works great!

hot chocolate on a spoon

After everyone was full of pizza and beer and heading on their way out the door into a cold wet Dutch autumn evening, they were delighted with little gems.

Ive decided to work out the prices for these so you can see how affordable these great edible gifts are, all prices are based on prices at Albert Heijn unless otherwise stated (where the cheapest option has been chosen):

  • 3 x100 gram  milk chocolate bars  = €0.49 a bar = €1.47
  • 2 x100 gram  dark chocolate bars = €0.49 = €0.98
  • 1/2 c (59g) cocoa powder = €0.45
  • 1 c (115g) powdered sugar/icing sugar = €0.40
  • 2 (10g) teaspoons ground cinnamon = €.14
  • 15 large marshmallows or 150 mini marshmallows = €0.83
  • plastic spoons = €0.53
  • Plastic shot glasses = €1.29
  • Above total is €6.09
  • Total price per shot glass gift = €0.41

Remember to share with friends (and maybe take one for yourself to enjoy)! 🙂