I had planned on writing a longer, more thoughtful Christmas post, wrapping up all of my feelings about this season, this year. But here we are, on the 26th, and I’m scrambling to piece together a few words while Theo takes his afternoon nap.
I can’t believe little Theo is already almost eight weeks old! Everyone says time goes by so quickly, and they are right. I thought it was time to share all of the details of Theo’s nursery. I love the serenity of this room. Although Theo does not yet sleep here, he started taking naps in his crib over the past few weeks. And we sit in here every day and rock and sing and are beginning to read some of the books together. It feels like a beautiful, peaceful retreat for our sweet baby boy.
After my first undergraduate Physics exam at Columbia, I remember sitting on the stone steps in front of Pupin Hall and crying. It wouldn’t be the last time an exam brought me to tears. Hello, Organic Chemistry!
I ended up surviving Physics, and I even retained some information, including the principles implied in the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This law basically proves the world tends to naturally move from order to disorder, and if you want to maintain order, it takes energy.
I love being organized. There’s something so pleasing about having everything in its place. And, being organized is more efficient! I don’t have to rummage through piles or drawers to find what I need to wrap a present or write a card. It’s a time- and frustration-saver.
I also feel like clearing the clutter clears my mind. I can’t think well if I’m surrounded by chaos. However, organization doesn’t necessarily come easily to me, so I put energy into it. That’s what I learned from Physics—organization takes energy, and a plan.
When we moved into our home last year, I knew I wanted to turn my cedar-paneled office closet into a craft closet and a place to store my photography props. Here’s how I did it.
The closet was just an empty shell, with a rod for clothing. To provide more space for storage, I had custom shelves installed in the closet along two of the sides. Even with the window, the interior was dark, so to lighten the closet, I painted the interior a soft, pale gray. Choosing one color and style of containers lends a pleasing symmetry, so to hold cards, ribbon, tissue paper and other sundries, I purchased different sizes of charcoal gray boxes. Tension rods stretched between two walls hold rolls of wrapping paper and spools of ribbon. With a glance, I can see what I have and what I need. The rest of the shelves are filled with some of my photography props.
My closet makes me inordinately happy.
Many years ago, when I lived in Seattle, I purchased candles at the Ballard Farmer’s Market from Julianna, the creative mind behind Ascents Candle Company. Julianna creates beautiful pastel ombré candles from palm wax—a sustainable vegetable wax—and all essential oils. As her candles burn, they develop an interesting crystalline structure that adds to the beauty of the candle.
I’m sensitive to synthetic fragrances, and candles made from all essential oils and without paraffin wax are not easy to find. Even after I left Seattle, I used to mail-order Julianna’s candles. Eventually I thought, “I should just make my own candles. It can’t be that hard.” So I purchased all of the supplies, including 10 pounds of palm wax. All those supplies sat in my closet for the next five years.
To be fair, the last five years have been filled with a lot of change. Those candle supplies traveled across the country with me, and have moved four times. But as I cleaned out a closet last week, I discovered all of the candle-making supplies hiding in a box and decided to make the candles that week. They turned out beautifully, so I thought I would share the technique with you. It couldn’t be easier, and it’s very rewarding.
First, you’ll need to purchase and gather your supplies:
Palm wax (5 pounds should be enough for about 10 candles, depending upon the size)
Essential oils (whatever scent you like)
Eco-friendly dye, if you want to color your candles
A container to melt the wax (I purchased an aluminum pouring pitcher from a candle supply store. You can also use an old double-boiler.)
An old pot (Use one that you reserve for crafts. It will get wax inside.)
A candy thermometer
Prepared wicks (look for cotton, wire-free wicks with tabs on the end, that have been dipped in vegetable wax and not paraffin wax)
Small sticks or skewers to hold the wicks in place
Empty candle containers
Sheet pan lined with aluminum foil or waxed paper
Since I purchased my supplies so many years ago, I can’t give you links to where I bought them. But, a quick search on the internet shows many online sources for eco-friendly candle-making supplies.
Next, prepare to make the candles. These are directions for making a two-toned candle. If you want one color, you can just color all the wax at once. Or, if you want an all-white candle, just leave the color out. If you want to create an even more distinctive ombrė effect, you could split the wax into three different color lots.
Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil or waxed paper and set all your candle containers on the pan. You can use mason jars, old glass candle containers, glass floral holders—whatever you have lying around the house.
Take the tabbed, prepared wick and set it in the center of each of the containers. If you have a large container (5 inches square, or bigger) you may want to place two wicks in the container. Place a skewer across the top of the container and wrap the end of the wick around the skewer to secure it in place. Make sure the tab is still sitting on the bottom of the container and the wick is centered.
Fill your pot about one-third full with water and place on a large burner. Add about 2 ½ pounds of wax to your double-boiler or pouring container and set inside the pot. Bring the water in the pot to a boil and then reduce to medium heat. Let the wax heat slowly, until it is completely melted. It can take about 15 – 20 minutes for this to happen. Put the thermometer in the wax and make sure that it doesn’t reach above 190 degrees. Wax can start to burn at too high a temperature.
Once the wax has melted, remove the container from the boiling water and add your dye and essential oils.
Follow the instructions on your dye to get the appropriate color and intensity you want for your candle. I used a liquid dye and added a little blue, red and black to make a dark blue-lavender color for the base.
For the essential oil, add about ½ teaspoon per pound of wax. You don’t want to add too much of the essential oils (even though it’s tempting!) because it changes the burning character of the candle. I used all clary sage, because that’s what I had on hand. But, use whatever essential oils you like.
Pour the colored and scented wax into your containers, filling each of the containers about ¼ of the way up the side. Obviously, you need to be very careful when pouring hot wax. You should use about half of the wax in your container. Place the container of wax back in the pot to stay warm. Let the candles set for about 10 minutes, to let the wax start to harden.
Using a skewer, poke holes in the wax all around the wick. Doing this will help the candle to burn evenly. Then, pour the remainder of the colored and scented wax into the containers. You should be a little less than half-way up the container. Let your candles sit for another 10 – 15 minutes.
Melt another 2 ½ pounds of was according to the above procedure. Once the wax has melted, add your scent again, about ½ teaspoon per pound of wax.
Using the skewer, poke holes all around the wick again. Pour the scented wax into your containers, leaving about ½ inch of room at the top of the container. If you have any leftover wax, you can just make another candle with the remaining wax.
Let the candles cool completely, at least four to six hours. Cut the wicks to about ¼” before lighting.
That’s all there is to it. It’s a little time consuming, but the results are quite rewarding. I found it to be a meditative process and good for a rainy day. Just put on your favorite music and get lost in your own thoughts. You’ll have beautiful candles as a thank you.
Best of all, when you make your own candles, you can make them in any size, color and scent you want. They make great gifts. Of course, if you don’t want to make your own vegetable wax candles, order them from Julianna. You won’t be disappointed either way.