In our house, I’m the cook. I’m the one that enjoys the meal planning and all the nerdy kitchen things. If I’m on my game, I’ll have dinner ready and on the table by 5:30pm, which is shortly after my husband walks in the door from work. More often than not, however, I’ll have barely put a dent in dinner prep, and can be found collapsed in a heap of children on the couch/bed/floor, just counting down the minutes until my husband can take the kids so I can work unencumbered with my audiobook blasting. Some days are just like that with littles, and that would be fine if even the simplest dinners didn’t feel like utter chaos. Add a picky 4-year-old who only wants to eat carbs, and an infant just starting on solids (hello food explosions) to the mix, and nobody is really having any fun. Or so it was.
A couple months ago, right when the days were getting noticeably shorter and the weather was turning chilly, I noticed a few posts on Instagram popping up about the practice of lighting a candle for dinner. Something about that clicked with me, especially as we were in the thick of daily food struggles, and suddenly I realized what we were missing: consistent daily habits and rituals around dinner, the one meal we eat together as a family.
I’m not sure why we found ourselves in this place. After all, so much of what I envision for our family culture revolves around the table. It’s essentially the first thing you see when you walk in the door, and the central hub of our home. My husband built our table when we first moved to this house in 2012 because we knew it would be important for us to have a good, solid and inviting place for all our eating, playing, project planning and gathering. So not only is it an important part of our family for all sorts of food and non-food reasons, but I cook 95% of our meals from scratch, so I knew I needed to start taking our dinners more seriously. I needed to figure out how to be more intentional about creating the right atmosphere, and how I wanted things to look and feel rather than just going with the flow.
Over time, we are slowly figuring things out and adjusting, and I’m noticing a big difference in my stress levels. I won’t lie and say we aren’t still experiencing some resistance, but it helps to have the habits to fall back on so it feels less overwhelming in those moments. For instance, my husband and 4-year old clean and set the table right when he gets home. They choose a Pandora station to listen to and light the candles while they wait for me to prep and plate the food. We try to encourage politeness at dinner so there’s a sense of calmness and formality, and Matt and I have been taking turns feeding the baby because, truth be told, it’s stressful and messy to feed babies who are brand new to solids (for us anyway), and it’s nice to catch a break to just focus on your own plate now and then.
Anyway, as you can imagine, this ritual of lighting candles with dinner has me going through them quickly. I often enjoy keeping them lit long after the dinner dishes are clean and everything has been tidied, too, because they’re such a cozy boost to the atmosphere. Luckily, I make my own simple soy wax and beeswax candles at home and have been doing so for years. It’s more economical to do it this way, and I tend to make a big batch this time of year anyway so I can give some away as gifts for the holidays.
Whenever I make a batch of candles, I get lots of questions about my process. Honestly, I’m not a candle expert, and I don’t have a bunch of fancy candle making equipment, but I went ahead and filmed myself making a small batch last weekend. I’ll share the video here in this post and on YouTube, and I’ll go ahead and include some tips and resources below if you’re interested in making some yourself.
- Melt down and reuse any leftover soy or beeswax from old candles.
- I like to place a drip or two of wax in the middle of my jar to hold the wick tabs in place. I then further secure them with a clothespin.
- I don’t always add essential oils (especially in beeswax candles because I think the wax smells lovely on its own), but I always make sure the melted wax is off the heat before I add them in. You may want to research essential oil flash points to make sure your wax isn’t too hot for the oil. I can’t be bothered, but it might be a good idea nonetheless.
- Beeswax melts much slower than soy wax, so I tend to use more robust wicks when I make candles with beeswax.
Please feel free to add any tips you may have about making candles in the comments section.
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- Beeswax Pellets
- Half-Pint Regular Mouth Mason Jars (you can likely find these at any grocery store or feed store)
- Quart-Sized Measuring Glass with Open Handle