Read an Excerpt
SIMPLE PLEASURES Candles
By Susannah Seton
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2004 Conari Press
All rights reserved.
We are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts.
An easy way to make the house cozy is to use a lot of candles—in the bedroom, living room, dining room, even in the bathroom. They give a nice glow to a dark evening and, if scented, also add a soothing fragrance. Try anointing your candles with a few drops of your favorite essential oil—rose, bayberry, and vanilla are nice—or use your favorite combination for a customized scented candle.
You can also decorate candles with herbs and ribbons. Use large, slow-burning candles and attach small sprigs or herbs by using a richly colored ribbon. Be sure to always place candles on fireproof saucers, and never leave them unattended.
Simple Pleasures of Candles offers many more easy and affordable ways to decorate your house and garden area with candles. Also terrific housewarming gifts, these can be made in groups or while you're finding some quiet time for yourself. After you're done creating a Zen Centerpiece (page 54) or a Stained-Glass Votive (page 40), soak in one of the bathtub recipes offered here. But don't forget the main ingredient of any bathing experience—an array of candles to illuminate the room.
I love to bathe solely by candlelight. The warm glow gives a relaxing atmosphere to dream and let stress melt away. I used to live in an apartment with a nice-sized bathroom shelf that accommodated a dozen votives, but recently I moved and there seemed to be no suitable place for my candles. I thought I would have to give up this pleasure, but then I put up corner bracket shelves and mounted candle lanterns on them. Now, even when the candles are not lit, my bathroom has a wonderful exotic flair that everyone comments on!
Candles do add a magical element to any room. I especially love the floating ones as a centerpiece for the dining room table. It solves the problem of having an arrangement that interferes with conversation. Simply float a few candles and some flowers in a bowl and you have an elegant focal point.
12 ounces paraffin
60 drops of your favorite essential oil
12 metal pastry tins or candle molds
12 1-inch floating candle wicks (available at craft stores)
In a double boiler, melt the paraffin and then add the essential oil with a wooden spoon. Pour wax into molds slowly to avoid air bubbles. Let set partly and then insert wicks in the center of each. Let candles set fully and then unmold. Makes 1 dozen.
This bath a great pick-me-up. cotton bath bag or piece of cheesecloth
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 ounce fresh rosemary
20 drops rosemary oil
20 drops lavender oil
1 cup rose water
Place the fresh ginger and rosemary in a cotton bath bag, or bundle in a 1-foot square piece of unused cheesecloth. Tie it closed. Place the bag under the bathtub spigot and run under hot water. Add oils and rose water to the bathtub, swirling with your hand to combine. The bath bag makes an excellent scrubber and exfoliator, and the ginger and rosemary will leave skin pleasantly tingling and feeling revived.
Light your favorite scented candles. Linger for awhile and let your self relax and revive all at once.
PAPER CUP LIGHTS
These are great strung on your front porch or out on a deck for a party. The trick is to poke enough of the design in the cup to let the light through, but not to cut it completely.
solid colored paper cups
large craft pin (looks like the letter T) or large safety pin
string of small indoor/outdoor Christmas lights
Find in a craft-pattern book or draw your own, a small design that will fit on a paper cup. (A small flower or a star works fine). Cut out the design to make a pattern. Hold the pattern against a cup you have turned upside down, and trace the design lightly onto the side.
With the craft knife, cut along sections of the pencil marks and push the cup in a bit along the cut. Do not cut out the design! The little cuts along the pattern will let the light through. With the pin, poke holes along the top and bottom of the design for effect. Punch a hole in the bottom of each cup the size of the Christmas lights and push the bulb through. String up when finished.
These are some of the easiest candles to make yourself. They are great for outdoor barbecues—they actually repel insects—and they look beautiful too—as they burn more and more, the light shines through the sand. As with all candlemaking, be aware that wax heated too high can burst into flames. If this happens, turn off the heat and smother with a lid or damp cloth—do not pour water on; that will make it burn more!
damp sand (not too wet, about 1 cup water per bucket of sand)
large mixing bowl
smaller bowl, the desired size of candle
wax dye if desired
few drops citronella oil
Pour sand into the large bowl until it's half-full. Tamp down with your fist. Push the smaller bowl into the sand and add sand around to fill in edges. Remove the smaller bowl, being careful not to disturb the remaining hole.
Measure the depth of the hole and cut the wick to fit, plus 1 inch extra. Heat the wax gently in a saucepan, adding the dye if desired and the citronella; mix well when the wax is melted. When the wax reaches 261°F, remove from heat and gently pour a bit into the center of the mold, trickling it over the back of a metal spoon so that the sand doesn't lose its shape. Wait about 5 minutes, as it seeps into the sand. Then add more, making sure the wax is still 261°F.
After about 2 hours, a depression will form in the middle of the mold. Again, heat the wax to 261°F and fill the depression. Push the wicking needle through the center of the well and lower the wick into the hole. Wind the top of the wick around the needle, and place the needle across the sand (so the wick stands upright).
In about 3 hours, the wax will have hardened completely. Remove the candle from the mold. Trim the wick and smooth the base of the candle with an iron on medium heat. Makes 1.
SETTING THE SCENE
If you want great sex, think about creating a bedroom that's conducive to intimacy, says Will Ross in The Wonderful Little Sex Book. "It doesn't need to be elaborately furnished, but it should be uncluttered, have pleasing colors, and not be merely utilitarian; it should inspire a sense of beauty. The bed you use for sex ought to have a special, exotic, otherworldly feeling, almost evocative of an altar. There should be an air of reverence. Some people enjoy making love under a canopy, and you may want to construct one. Soft lighting is immensely helpful [light several aromatic candles all over the room!], and so is quietly pulsating music. When the whole room feels like a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, won't you relish the thought of spending time there with your beloved?
This bath feels luxurious beyond belief.
2 drops cedar essential oil
2 drops clary sage essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops orange essential oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine all oils and pour the mixture into the stream of a warm bath. Before stepping into the tub, light tea lights on every surface in the bathroom.
SCENTED CANDLES Surprise your sweetheart with a candlelit dinner for two with your own homemade scented candles gracing both the table and the bedroom. Their lovely fragrance will be released as they burn. Scented candles are incredibly easy to make—you just need to plan in advance. (If you haven't planned ahead, you can still get some of the effect by sprinkling a drop or two of your favorite essential oil in the melted wax of a plain candle as it burns.)
2 ounces of your favorite fragrance essential oil (or try
a combination; vanilla and rose are my favorites for romance)
¼ cup orris root powder (available at herbal stores)
1 large airtight plastic container big enough to fit 6 candles
6 unscented candles, any size
Combine the oil(s) and the orris root and sprinkle in the bottom of the container. Place candles inside, cover, and store in a cool spot for 4 to 6 weeks.
Candles are wonderful, especially as the dark creeps in earlier and earlier. If you would like to be intentional about the candles you use, consider the symbolism of various colors:
WHITE: spiritual truth and household purification
GREEN: healing, prosperity, and luck
RED: physical health and vigor
YELLOW: charm and confidence
The sensual delight of taking a bath in aromatic oils goes back to the Romans, who raised bathing to a high art. The public baths consisted of three parts: first you went to the unctuarium, where you were anointed in oils. Then you proceeded to the frigidarium, where you took a cold bath, then to the tepidarium for a tepid one. You finished with a hot bath in the caldarium. While we don't bathe as the Romans did, we can indulge in the essence of the practice.
4 drops bergamot essential oil
4 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops clary sage essential oil
Run a warm bath. Drop the essential oils into the stream
of water. Slide in, and relax for 10 to 15 minutes.
One of the easiest and most attractive arrangements you can make for a table or sideboard is a series of cream or white pillar candles in terra-cotta pots. Just group them attractively, and you have a simple yet sophisticated feeling. Make sure you never leave candles unattended; the moss can catch on fire if the candle burns too far down.
Dry floral foam
1 terra-cotta pot
1 pillar candle
green, sphagnum, or reindeer moss
foral or straight pins
Trim the foam to approximately the same shape as the pot, making sure it is a little larger than the pot's diameter. Push the foam firmly into the pot until it touches the bottom. Trim if needed to get a good fit. Pack the spaces around the foam with moss. Trim top of foam level with pot. Glue candle to foam. Surround base of candle with moss, fixing it in place with pins. Makes 1.
HOMEMADE BUBBLE BATH
Bubble bath is a great gift that even small kids can make. The trick is to have a pretty container to put it in and to never divulge your ingredients.
2 cups Ivory (or other unscented) dishwashing liquid
1/8 ounce of your favorite essential oil (vanilla is my favorite)
Drop the oil into the dishwashing liquid and let sit, covered for 1 week. Pour it into beautiful a bottle and add a gift tag and ribbon and instructions to use ¼ cup per bath. Enough for 8 baths.
CANDLE - MAKING SUPPLIES
Most hobby and craft stores carry everything you need to make candles of all sorts. But if you have trouble finding what you need, contact Cierra Candles (800-281-4337). Other good sources are Candlechem Co. in Massachusetts (508-586-1880), Pourette Manufacturing in Seattle (800-888-9425), and Longwyck Candle Works in New Jersey (800-724-8345).
Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.
If you want to make your own candles, catalogues such as Hearthsong (800-432-6314) have kits. Or you can try the old standard we used to make in grade school. It's easy, but be careful—paraffin must be heated over low heat or it can explode. Never put it directly on the stove—only over a water bath.
block of paraffin (to equal 1 quart)
crayon bits for coloring
1 half-gallon coffee can
1 pencil or chopstick
1 quart waxed cardboard milk or juice container, washed and with top cut off
Put the paraffin and crayon bits in the coffee can and place the can in a pan of water on the stove to create a double boiler. Melt the paraffin over low heat. Be sure to keep it over a very low flame, because paraffin explodes easily when overheated. While wax is melting, tie wick onto pencil or chopstick and place in the cardboard so that the pencil keeps the wick upright. When wax is melted, pour carefully into the milk or juice container and allow to harden completely overnight. Cut away container. Makes one pillar candle.
PINE BATH OIL
This oil is a great skin softener. Just pour a bit into your bath under the running water. 1 cluster pine needles
1 cup baby oil, approximately
Put the pine needles in a glass container with a lid. Cover completely with baby oil and cover tightly. Store in dry, cool place for 4 weeks. Strain the oil, and decant into attractive glass bottle. If you'd like, you can add fresh pine needles for decoration. Makes 1 cup.
Before slipping into this tub, light a few pine-scented and vanilla-scented candles to enhance your tub time.
The human body is the best picture of the human soul.
Nothing can be easier than turning your old flowerpots into beautiful candle holders—wonderful for you and as holiday gifts. This is a Christmas holiday scent, but feel free to substitute your own favorite essential oils. This recipe is for one candle, but can be multiplied for more.
Excerpted from SIMPLE PLEASURES Candles by Susannah Seton. Copyright © 2004 Conari Press. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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