Make your own soap

Win a Soap Kitchen Christmas melt & pour soap making kit with H is for Home

I was never very good at science subjects at school; I couldn’t get my head around physics and chemistry especially. I enjoyed doing the practical experiments – adding one substance to another to make a solution – it’s very much like baking. However, reading in a text book that combining H2O with NaOH causes a reaction that results in Na+ and OH- ions and lots of heat, was Greek to me.

Vanilla soap making kit from The Soap Kitchen | H is for Home

Fast-forward 30-something years and I’ll now always remember that particular little nugget of chemistry. H2O (water) and NaOH (caustic soda) are essential ingredients in soap making.

Tools needed for DIY soap making | H is for Home

Add them to vegetable oil with a dash of essential oil, whisk it all up… and magic happens!

Caustic soda and water solution Liquid soap | H is for Home

Pour the resulting custard-like liquid into your mould or moulds, allow it to cool slowly for 24 hours and you get your lovely bars or block of soap.

Soap hardening in a cardboard mould | H is for Home

The Christmas melt & pour soap making kit that we’re giving away contains moulds in the shapes of a Christmas tree, gingerbread person, reindeer, Santa Claus and an angel. As this kit doesn’t include caustic soda, it’s suitable for use by children with adult supervision.

Slab of home-made vanilla soap | H is for Home Sliced slab of home-made vanilla soap | H is for Home

I really enjoyed making my own soap for the very first time. Having the kit with all the ingredients pre-portioned meant that it was really easy and I was confident embarking upon the strange chemistry & alchemy! I now have the courage to buy all the ingredients in larger quantities and try out other oils and fragrances.

Wrapping hand-made vanilla soap | H is for Home

Some of the bars of vanilla soap I’ve made have now been wrapped up in tissue paper and tied with string ready to be stocking fillers for friends & family.

The Soap Kitchen melt & pour soap-making kit


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Do you need a light like Needlite?

Needlite ™ daylight desk lamp | H is for Home

The clocks go back at midnight on Sunday, heralding the start of daylight saving time and winter. Justin doesn’t mind it, but it’s not a time of year that I look forward to – the long nights get me down-in-the-dumps. I find it hard to wake up and get going in the morning. It used to be much more of a struggle back when I commuted every day – waking up in the dark, coming home in the dark and spending those few precious daylight hours cooped up indoors. Does your mood change when the clocks go back in the autumn?

Boxed Needlite ™ daylight desk lamps | H is for Home

Needlite ™ has recently sent us a pair of their daylight desk lamps to try out and review. They’re LED lights which emit a similar spectrum of light that you get from sunshine. They help alleviate negative mood changes and depression from the lack of natural light; and in so doing, can help improve work performance, productivity and creativity.

Needlite ™ daylight desk lamp | H is for Home

They’ve been set up, at the advised 45º angle, either side of a large table which we use for both office and craft activities – a simple, two-minute job. They’re sleek and minimalist – and look really great.

Needlite ™ iPhone app screenshots | H is for Home

You can operate the lights manually by finger touch control – or alternatively, you have the option of downloading an app for your smartphone (another 2-minute job) and controlling them that way. You can alter the brightness/dimness and even give yourself a little daylight boost if necessary.  You can also use the app to programme them to switch off at a particular time – a great way of letting you know that your working day is over!

Needlite ™ daylight desk lamps | H is for Home

I could feel the positive effects immediately – my mood lifting on the dark, drizzly day that we took these photos. Our work room faces almost east, therefore loses direct sunlight pretty early on in the day. With our new Needlite lamps, it will make it feel like it’s south facing!

I think they’re going to be a godsend this winter and they come highly recommended for fellow Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers.


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Pretty Green Mathmos lava lamp collab

Pretty Green x Mathmos lava lamp | H is for Home

We’ve never actually owned a lava lamp – so were very happy to receive one of the new, limited-edition versions produced by the original manufacturers Mathmos in collaboration with Liam Gallagher’s men’s fashion company, Pretty Green.

Box containing a Pretty Green x Mathmos lava lamp | H is for Home

The Astro lava lamp is such a design classic – the idea of Edward Craven-Walker who founded the Mathmos company. The name ‘Mathmos’ actually comes from the French comic strip, Barbarella (later made into the cult classic film starring Jane Fonda). Mathmos is the bubble liquid force under the city – the choice of name becomes obvious when you see them in action. Introduced in 1963, it was an instant success, an icon of sixties and seventies interior décor. Their appeal has really stood the test of time. There have been all kinds of innovations and special editions, however the basic principal remains the same – and Mathmos is still going strong over 50 years later.

Recently switched on Pretty Green x Mathmos lava lamp | H is for Home Warmed up Pretty Green x Mathmos lava lamp | H is for Home

We opted to receive the pink and orange colourway for our Astro lamp. The lovely warm glow filled the room from the moment of plug in. As the lamp heats, the contents come to life. Initially stalagmite-like shapes form – then the classic globules develop. These globules gently rise, split apart and fall back down. Then they do it all over again, with slight variations to the movements and shapes formed each time. Edward Craven-Walker likened it to a repeating life cycle.

Pretty Green x Mathmos lava lamp on a vintage Ladderax shelving system | H is for Home

The atmosphere and warmth that they give to a space is quite unique – and they’re mesmeric to watch of course. If you’re in the mood to relax, there’s a little 2 minute clip below – just long enough to fall under its spell! (P.S. If you hear heavy breathing in the background, that’s Fudge our dog, not Justin falling asleep whilst holding the camera).

When it comes to lava lamps, don’t be tempted by lesser imitations. The brand authenticity, quality of materials, colour intensity and lifespan are all important factors that make the classic Mathmos the only real choice. In fact replacement bottles, bulbs and bases mean that your Mathmos lava lamp should last a lifetime.


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Bookmarks: Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home children's book by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen | H is for Home

We’ve not written a book review in AGES and this one’s just a little bit different to our usual fare.

Front cover detail of Home Sweet Home children's book by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen | H is for Home

Home Sweet Home is a children’s book – recommended for ages 5+. However, even as adults, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading it… and, as regular readers will know, we appreciate and collect iconic children’s books!

Title page of Home Sweet Home children's book by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen | H is for Home

Published earlier this month (October 2017), it was written by Mia Cassany and beautifully illustrated by Paula Blumen.

'Queenie in London' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

Throughout the 40 pages, you’re shown around various interiors & exteriors from around the world – guided by the pets-in-residence.

'Pierre & Papillon in Paris' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

There’s Eva the St Bernard in Iceland, Coco the cat in Brooklyn… there’s even a tortoise named Taiki who lives in Kyoto, Japan!

'Juan in Seville' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

This book is a really fun way for kids (and grown-ups!) to find out about other parts of the world. It teaches facts such as San Francisco is very hilly, Giethoorn in the Netherlands is car-free and that houses in Ibiza are painted white to reflect the light and keep them cool.

'A home isn't a home without a pet!' in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

It’s a book that warrants plenty of return visits.

'Rex in San Francisco' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

It’s such a charming read…

'Bonaparte in Provence' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

…and the illustrations are full of lovely detail that reveal something new every time you flick through the pages.

'Chang in Hong Kong' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

This book is a fantastic Christmas or birthday present for any pet-loving, budding interior decorator!

'Drago in Capri' page in Home Sweet Home by Mia Cassany and illustrated by Paula Blumen

Home Sweet Home is available from the publishers in UK/Europe & US/Canada and from Amazon, The Book Depository and Waterstones.

[Many thanks to Ellen at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books for the review copy]

It’s simple with the Simplissimo!

Scott Simplissimo Chef all-in-one cook blender

We’ve got a little twist for the post usually occupying the Cakes & Bakes slot on Thursdays. It’s a review for a new product coming to market shortly (available from early November 2017) that will make life in the kitchen easier. It’s the Simplissimo Chef by Scott; an all-in-one cook blender.

Scott Simplissimo Chef all-in-one cook blender with soup ingredients | H is for Home

The lovely people at Scott sent us one to trial so we’ve been trying it out over the last few days. We started out by making a soup – well, the machine made the soup, to be honest! There’s a choice of automated programs or manual operation. We obviously couldn’t resist the automated option as an introduction to our new kitchen helper.

Scott Simplissimo Chef all-in-one cook blender with soup ingredients within | H is for Home

We decided on a cauliflower and blue cheese soup – placed vegetable stock, chopped cauliflower, potato and a clove of garlic to the jug – and selected the appropriate program for ‘smooth soup’. The Simplissimo then got on with it. It heated and stirred the soup quietly. About three quarters through the program we added the blue cheese, some seasoning and a little cream. (You can add whatever ingredients you like during the cooking process through a sealed opening ‘hatch’ in the lid).

Home-made cauliflower & blue cheese soup in the Scott Simplissimo Chef all-in-one cook blender | H is for Home

After 30 minutes the hot soup was blended – and then kept warm for 15 minutes. The perfect amount of time to rustle up some sour dough croutons and serve. We hope it looks tempting – it really was very delicious soup!

Bowl of home-made cauliflower & blue cheese soup made in the Scott Simplissimo Chef all-in-one cook blender | H is for Home

Other favourite soups that will be perfect for this auto cook/blend function include leek & potato, nettle, pea & ham and mushroom. In addition to soup, it’s also perfect for sauces. Peppercorn sauce for a nice steak perhaps – or onion gravy for hearty sausage and mash. Dips and dressings too. And in addition to all that, it can steam food – and even cook vacuum packed dishes ‘sous vide’ in a temperature controlled water bath. Amazing!

Fruit smoothie ingredients | H is for Home

After the hot dishes we thought we’d try a cold one. The blender has no problem chopping fruit and crushing ice so there’s endless smoothie options. We went for a blueberry & banana smoothie. Again delicious. Take a bow, Chef Simplissimo! The choice of flavour combinations is almost limitless – and then there’s all the potential for fabulous cocktails!

It’s very well built, solid & sturdy – and looks good on the counter top too. With all it’s potential uses there’s no need to hide it away. It even has an auto clean program, so no messing about with sharp blades. As you might have guessed, we’re very happy with our new little friend – and we’re certainly going to enjoy future dishes and further experimentation!

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It’s curtains for our old pole!

Finial on our new graphite Poles & Blinds curtain pole | H is for Home

We were recently approached by Poles&Blinds to collaborate on a product review. Their timing was perfect! We’ve recently redecorated the lounge, but there was one last remaining job… to tidy up the window area.

Swish Elements Belgravia 35mm curtain pole kit components | H is for Home

As you can see from the ‘before’ photo on the left, it was in a very sorry state! The pole was scratched & very tired looking, there were old Polyfilla repairs – and the brackets were coming out of the wall.

Our old curtain pole - scratched up and bracket hanging out of the wall | H is for Home New curtain pole and tab top curtain

Having looked through their website, we picked out the Swish Elements Belgravia 35mm Curtain Pole with a graphite metallic finish. The room has a combination of cream and dark grey walls with natural colour furnishings in wood, wicker, Hessian, leather and so on. So this graphite shade pole works perfectly in the scheme.

Justin installing our new curtain pole | H is for Home

Justin set about the task (well he does have to earn that afternoon tea & cake somehow, doesn’t he?). It was very straightforward really, the process taking about an hour from start to finish. Drill, screwdriver, spirit level, hacksaw and pencil were the only tools required.

Natural, Hessian-type tab top curtains on our new curtain pole

Sometimes, even relatively simple improvements can make a big difference to the look of a room. We love the pared back style and chunky feel. It also works well with the vintage industrial elements that we have dotted about this space.

New curtain pole and curtains erected | H is for Home

The pole is solid, sturdy and of really good quality. As you can see, we have tab top curtains in this room so didn’t need to use the curtain rings supplied. However, if and when we do (or you have curtains that require them), these rings are nylon lined to give them a smooth and quiet glide across the pole.

Adelle working next to the window in the sitting room | H is for Home

We’re very pleased with the results. That scruffy corner has been irritating us for months! It’s now neat, tidy and colour co-ordinated – and the curtains don’t fall off any more!


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