Making your own perfume from scratch might sound complicated, but it’s actually a lot simpler than you think. Most perfumes are nothing more than a mixture of fragrant oils, water and alcohol. Simply mix it all together and spritz! So break out that pretty spray bottle you’ve been saving and let’s bottle some blooms.Read More
This is going to be the most difficult Christmas for my family. On Saturday, I lost my step-father. His name was Michael Allen (Mike). He had been on dialysis for the past three years, but showed a rapid decline in health over the past two months. He had to retire from his day job and soon couldn't drive any more. He began to fall a lot and it became harder and harder to pick him up when he fell. It's still hard to talk about him in past tense.
On Saturday, after my mother picked him up from dialysis, he had what appeared to be a heart attack then silently slipped away. My mum tried to resuscitate him but with one final cough he was gone. We had learned in November that he only had about three months to live but after his last round of dialysis on Thursday, I knew he wouldn't make it to the New Year.
No matter how prepared we were, it still hurt. My mum said she was still shocked and some days it still doesn't feel real, but each passing day does make it easier. We've pretty much cancelled Christmas in our home, but I had to make a few gifts to show my heartfelt thanks to friends who have really supported me throughout the year. The first gift up is an infused whiskey for one of my best friend's Krista. I'd like to think Mike would've enjoyed this as well.
I used a half pint of Jack Daniels because she loves Jack Daniels. I looked up a few options for infusions with whiskey and found coffee and vanilla and vanilla and cherries. I figured, why not just combine both?
How to Infuse Booze
The only even slightly tricky part of infusing alcohol is narrowing down the flavors and deciding the amounts. You can infuse with almost anything: herbs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, spices, candy…you get the idea.
- Canning or mason jars, or large glass bottles with lids (make sure you can fit your ingredients in the mouth of the bottle)
- Alcohol of choice
- Infusion ingredients
- Packaging/ribbon and labels if you’re gifting
Put your infusion ingredients in the alcohol, cover tightly and store in a cool, dark place (a pantry is great). If you’re using fresh fruits, veggies or herbs, be sure to thoroughly wash and dry those ingredients first—use organic if possible.
Remove the ingredients after they’ve infused to your liking (see tips below), then strain the booze into your desired jars or just keep in your infusion vessel to use at home. If you’re gifting these, include a label, some pretty ribbon or packaging, and perhaps a cocktail recipe. It’s really that simple!
- To make sure you are able to infuse long enough, it’s best to start early—about 3 weeks before you want to gift or use the booze. If you get the flavor you want before that time, simply fish out/strain out the infusion ingredients, and store the booze until you’re ready to use or gift it.
- The ratio of infusion ingredients to alcohol varies. If I’m free-styling with my own combo, I look up a similar recipe, and use that as a basic guideline. You can always adjust.
- If you accidentally infuse too long, you can dilute with plain, unflavored booze as a last resort
- The longer everything sits in the alcohol, the stronger the flavor. It’s a good idea to taste your mixture every 5 days or so to see where it’s at.
- Generally, the more porous and intensely flavored the ingredients (coffee beans, fresh herbs), the quicker they will add flavor. This isn’t an exact science, which is why it’s good to taste as you go! If your lemon-basil vodka is getting too herb-y, remove the basil halfway through and let the lemon peel sit alone for longer.
- Vodka, brandy and whiskey are my favorites to work with. The booze is less nuanced, so complementary flavor profiles are easier to come up with.
- Rum or tequila will work too, although they lend themselves mainly to warm spices like cinnamon or clove, or tropical fruits like mango and lime.
- Gin is a little trickier since the juniper berry flavor is already very pronounced. I’ve seen recipes for infused gin using cucumber, citrus, lavender and earl grey tea, though.
- Middle-shelf alcohol is your best bet. No need to buy the most expensive, but don’t go bargain basement either! No amount of flavoring can salvage cheap booze :)
- If working with citrus, use only the peel (where the oils of the fruit are contained), and make sure to scrape off the bitter pith before using
- If you have trouble picking a flavor, think about how you would use the alcohol. Is it meant for sipping or to use in mixed drinks? For instance, if your infused vodka will be used in Bloody Mary's, think about what will work with that flavor profile.
Vanilla Cherry & Coffee Infused Whiskey
- 2 vanilla beans (split down the middle or 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract) + 1/8 cup coffee beans, slightly crushed with a mortar and pestle—or a plastic bag and wooden spoon
- 4-5 dried or fresh cherries (no need to pit)
If you try this or any infused alcohol recipe this holiday season, don't forget to tag me on Instagram @life_by_olivia. Stay safe and do not drink and drive!
This is the first Christmas in two years that I'll be home. I spent that past two years with my now ex-boyfriend in Miami (not so secretly wishing we could be somewhere colder). I had hopes of travelling somewhere snowy this year but when those plans didn't work out, I decided to find another way to treat myself this year. At first I thought I wanted a tablet for blogging on the go but when I looked at the cost, given the tech specs I would want, it just wasn't a worthy investment, because I really wouldn't use it that often. I already bought myself the Google home, which really works better in pairs and with connected devices, so that area was covered. And after lowering my credit card bill, I was only reasonably left with about $200 if I wanted to spend wisely.
While putting together the Gift Guides, I was browsing the home & kitchen section of Amazon when it stood out to me and I knew instantly what I had to get myself for Christmas: The Ninja Coffee Bar System. Everyone knows how much I love coffee. So much so I bought about 7lbs of it when I went to Europe this summer. I had seen the commercials and always wanted it so I figured after the ups and downs 2017 has brought me, I deserved this doggonit! I spent $220 BSD on the initial purchase on Saturday 2nd December and picked it up from Xpress-it this past Wednesday, but of course it wasn't that easy. Like the post says, this gift costs me FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS!
The price tag to bring it in to The Bahamas after customs, VAT and freight was $185.03, bringing the grand total of this ONE ITEM to $405! I couldn't believe it. I expected the freight price but completely forgot about the customs tax. I was heart broken, but I was also already $220 in the hole, so I had to pay the price.
So was it worth it?
I told an old friend last night that I spent $400 on a coffee maker and she was like, "You mean a person right? Like someone who will actually come to your house and make the coffee for you?" I joked that if my mum wanted tea, she'd better make it with this machine instead of the kettle and we would make soup in this if we had to, to make me feel better about the price tag. Because it's still new, I haven't had time to really play around with it yet, but I did brew iced coffee with it this morning. I made enough for my travel mug pictured above and it was great! There's definitely a different flavour with this machine as it really tastes like something I would've bought in a coffeehouse. I also used my frother for the first time today and had a lot of fun with it. Yesterday I used the Cafe Forte just to see what it would be like (it's really strong).
So far I love using it! I can't wait to tackle all of the recipes in the recipe book that came with it! The best part of the machine is how easy it is to use. I skimmed the manual, but it really is a straight forward process. I love setting it to automatically brew in the morning and I love that I can brew directly into my mug. I even got a new mug from one of my alumni associations that I can't wait to start using. It's a gorgeous red, just in time for the holidays! I can't wait to start making frappes and sharing the recipes with you guys.
How are you treating yourself this Christmas season? Have you started your holiday shopping yet? Do you think I spent too much on just a coffee maker? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Merry Christmas!
With the holiday season upon us, it’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping and preparing for all of the festivities. We sort through malls and online stores for the perfect gift for that loved one, sometimes snagging something for ourselves in the process. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to shower your friends and family with a little love and appreciation this time of year, this year I want to challenge you to consider purchasing gifts that give back to amazing causes. It's the best kind of 2 for 1 deal. You were probably going to buy that body lotion anyway, so why not buy one that donates it's proceeds to grassroots charities? To help you out I’ve created a gift guide today that showcases stocking stuffers and gifts that give back to artisans, communities, and organisations around the globe. I’ve included some of my favourite brands that I’m sure you’ll love too. Keep scrolling to see how you can give back, one gift at a time…
31 Bits Sundance and Soma Bangles $32
Sales of 31 Bits handmade jewellery help Ugandan and Indonesian artisans by giving them fair wages and safe working conditions.
B.A.R.E Soaps Deep Cleanse Face Mask $25
When you purchase an all natural mask or any handmade product from B.A.R.E soaps, you support the company's mission to "bring antiseptic resources to everyone". Proceeds go towards helping communities in Uganda and India by employing women and providing vitamins, soap and other immediate needs to children.
Giggle The Pig Snuggle Pal $20
Everything Happy is a one-stop shop for baby blankets, bags, and bibs. This site matches each product sold by donating a second product to a child in hospitals and orphanages around the world, so one purchase makes two kids happy.
Canvas + Leather Tote $58
Shop bags, wallets, pillows, scarves, and gloves made by at-risk women living in Nepal at Mulxiply. Sales go help to support the women and their families.
Zebra Wood Fillmore Wireless Headphones $130
LSTN, a speaker and headphone company, uses its profits to provide hearing aids to people in need. So far, it's helped over 20,000 people hear in the U.S., Peru, Kenya, Uganda, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.
LUSH Charity Pot Lotion $8
Made from sustainable ingredients, LUSH donates 100% of the profits of this purchase to organisations supporting environmental conservation, human rights, and animal welfare. I bought one in London and I absolutely love it! It smells great and I keep it cool in the fridge. It's self-preserving so one container can last as long as you need it to, and withstand any travel. Just know that the label does not define the charity the proceeds go towards, rather the profits are collectively split amongst the various charities.
Madécasse Dark Chocolate $45
This delectable set includes the entire current collection of Madécasse dark chocolate bars plus an extra Sea Salt & Nibs bar for good luck. The bars come neatly packaged in our keepsake recipe box that can be used over again as a nice home for your Madécasse chocolate or for 4 x 6 recipe cards. No-GMOs, Vegan, Gluten Free, Kosher, Soy Free, USDA Organic. Direct trade chocolate means that this company purchases chocolate directly from the growers and farmers, creating more transparency and less middlemen. The company was started by former Peace Corps Volunteers in Madagascar, and the company has made three trips back to the area to refurbish schools and build a water system.
(S’WELL)RED 17oz. Bottle $35
These stylish, sleek steel bottles are perfect for travel or hauling to the gym, and the (RED) brand means the proceeds go to fight AIDS. A purchase of this bottle can provide 23 days of life-saving medicine to someone in need. You can even personalise it with a monogram for an additional $10.
TOMS Women's Natural Burlap Alpargata Flat $79
No charitable list would be complete without TOMS! Take a step in the right direction with these black and white minimalist TOMS sneakers. The shoe brand is renowned for their charitable efforts working working with over 100 philanthropic partners. Not only does TOMS match every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need, but they've expanded to eye wear, clean water and safe birth.
Fire Dept. Coffee $12
This coffee is seriously lit! Made by actual firefighters and sourced from environmentally-friendly farms in Central and South America. Fire Dept. Coffee is made with both our people and our planet in mind. Get buzzed off of caffeine and feel-good vibes knowing that a portion of every sale is donated to firefighter veterans or military assistance programmes.
How are you giving back this holiday season?
Let me know in the comments!
Today I'm continuing the Gift Guide with 10 items for your foodie friend: The Hostess with The Mostess. Maybe you have a family member who is a fabulous home cook—someone who always whips up a delectable four-course meal whenever you come for a “casual” dinner. Or perhaps you have a bestie who you always turn to for restaurant recommendations—a friend who loves fine dining and worships celebrity chefs like they were pop stars. Or maybe it's that friend that likes odd items with personality and character. Either way, this gift guide will have you covered. Every good guest knows the golden rule: never show up empty-handed. But finding just the right thing for your gracious host can feel like an insurmountable task—particularly if you’re travelling or trying to complete a lengthy to-do list before leaving for your trip. And although a bottle of wine is always a nice gesture, you need not resort to the old standby just because you’re short on time. There are plenty of creative options out there. From gourmet ingredients to the chicest kitchen tools and serving pieces, check out these gourmand gift ideas below…
These Sweary Oven Mitts Are Perfect For Friends Who Are Out Of F*cks $13 BUY NOW
Is there anything better than a sweary gift? I mean, come on. That’s why these amazing sweary oven mitts from Always Fits are the perfect addition to your holiday shopping list. Oh, who are we kidding. Once you see all of these, you’re going to want to buy them for yourself.
Mouth.com Pantry in a Bag, $105.50 BUY NOW
Not sure what artisanal fixings to get for your favourite home chef? Why not contribute to dinner with Mouth.com’s curated foodie gifts like this Pantry in a Bag.
Ninja Coffee Bar Brewer System $199 BUY NOW
This tops my Christmas wish list! For all the coffee addicts out there, this is the gift to buy! The next-generation Ninja Coffee Bar® is more than a coffee maker. It's a coffee system—complete with a variety of brew types and sizes, a built-in frother, and tons of delicious coffee recipes you can create and enjoy at home.
Erasable Wine Glass Markers $13 BUY NOW
Made for marking on (and washing off!) glass and ceramic, these markers help your host and all her guests avoid the perennial party question: "Is this my glass?"
Echo Show $229 BUY NOW
Got a hostess friend who loves to set the mood and maybe even show off a little? The Echo Show is the perfect gift! Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings, Amazon Video content, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, browse and listen to Audible audiobooks, and more. Call anyone hands-free, or make video calls to family and friends with an Echo Spot, Echo Show, or the Alexa App. Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby's room with compatible cameras from Amazon and others. Turn on lights or the TV, set thermostats, control Amazon Video on Fire TV, and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, Sony, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.
Infused Pinot Noir Salt $12 BUY NOW
Sprinkle your wine-loving friend with love (and salt) this year.
Wine Advent Box $129 BUY NOW
World class wines from renowned regions across Italy, France, Spain and more. Naughty or nice, you deserve a glass (or 12) this season! Countdown with a new glass of wine every night because we're adults and chocolate just doesn't cut it anymore...
12 Days Of Christmas Appetizer Plates $120 BUY NOW
For the hostess who's obsessed with Christmas, this winsome Christmas Countdown will amuse them every time they sit down to their table. 12 assorted square scalloped plates in a gift box takes care of the packaging for you. All you have to do is add the bow on top!
Vena's Gin Infusion Jars $13 BUY NOW
Packed with spices and dried fruit, these DIY drink jars are an amateur mixologist's dream. (The company also offers tons of options for vodka, bourbon and tequila!) You can even DIY this gift for a personal touch!
Gingerbread Cookie Mix $16 BUY NOW
When all else fails, you can't beat a mason jar cookie mix. These jars of pre-measured ingredients makes the whole cookie-baking thing tres easy. Pair with any of these homemade food gifts and you're set for your entrance. This gift can also be a DIY with your own personal recipe!
Which gifts will you be getting your favourite foodie friend?
Let me know below!
Whether you want to splurge or you're looking to spend under $50, I have a gift recommendation for your favoruite people, no matter their level of tech know-how. Shop some of my favourite tech gifts here!Read More
This holiday season, it's easy to get discouraged by overpriced presents, and sometimes, after buying those overpriced presents, the department store you bought it from, charges extra for gift wrapping. And I'm sure you'd do it yourself, if you were any good at it.
Well put down the generic wrapping paper, and gift boxes. As I wrap my godchild's Christmas present, I'm going to show you in four easy steps, how to make super cool and attractive wrapping paper out of a brown paper bag. It may seem boring to the untrained eye, but brown paper bags make a cheap alternative to traditional wrapping paper that allows you to add character and pizzazz to your gift wrapping this holiday season. The best part? It's completely recycled and will save you money!
And you're done! It really is that simple! You can get fanicer and use any kind of ribbon you want, you can write or draw on your brown paper as well. Get creative! And are you stumped for a gift tag? Tomorrow, I will show you how to make a super cute gift tag out of buttons and scrapbooking paper!