Thursday 28 September 2023

Small Business Spotlight - From Friendship To Flames: Smoke + Matches

handmade soy candles, hand poured soy candles, concrete trays, concrete candles, mikhila mcdaid candles,
image taken from smoke + matches website

Welcome back

In a world filled with mass-produced products, there's something special that comes with buying handcrafted items. Imagine relaxing at home with the soft flicker of candlelight and the smell of a stunning fragrance filling the room, while supporting a small business. That's precisely what my friend, Khila, and her friend Karen have brought to life by launching their new business, Smoke + Matches.

When Smoke + Matches launched, I purchased 3 of the products and will be sharing my honest opinions of those products in this post, but first I want to tell you all about Smoke + Matches because simply put, I'm really proud of my friend Khila.

About Smoke + Matches & The creators

My lovely friend Khila met Karen when they both worked together in the railway industry and after a while, they realised they had a lot in common. This is what they said about how Smoke + Matches came to be:

"It's hard to pinpoint exactly where this idea took root but both being somewhat creative 'seekers', it was only a matter of time until we did something together... It was just a matter of what. The idea of a candle business was discussed in mid 2022 but knowing the time and dedication it required, we decided to work to Autumn 2023 as a launch date. In hindsight, this presented itself at a time when we were each looking to escape some mental health struggles and throw ourselves into an all-consuming pastime. For the past 6 months, we have lived and breathed wax and fragrance. The volume of messages exchanged would lead you to believe we were engaging in a sordid affair. From deciding on the colour of our tissue paper at 3 a.m. to those first test sales, it has already been such a journey and we can only hope that you enjoy what we have laboured over enough that we get to keep doing it."

Smoke + Matches - The Products

There are some beautiful products available from the Smoke + Matches website and because the products are so reasonably priced for such amazing quality, you'll be 100% spoilt for choice. On each item page, there are details of allergens, ingredients and any warnings with a description of each item, I have never seen such detailed listings on a website, it's something many others could take note of and follow suit.

The Products:

Travel Candle: These are 50g and their burn time is around 15 hours, although I would say mine burned for longer. Travel Tins are available in several different scents, and some new ones coming soon so lots to choose from, they are tins with a screw lid which is easy to open and are a great way of trying scents if you're undecided. 

You can find the Travel Candles HERE priced at £6.00 each. 

Wax Melt Snap Bar: These are 50g and their burn time depends on how much of the bar you use at each time. These are available in several different scents, they are such a great price for a handmade soy product and with recyclable and biodegradable packaging too, so, run don't walk to pick some up. 

You can find the Wax Melt Bars HERE priced at £4.50 per bar.


Glass Jar Candle: These are 160g in a 20cl glass jar and the burn time is 40 hours, they are made from coconut soy wax with a 100% cotton wick and come in several scents. I really like the look of these, they have such a classic look and would look great in any home.

You can find the Glass Jar Candles HERE priced at £11.00.

Concrete Candle: These are 220g and the burn time is 40 hours, they are made from coconut soy wax with a 100% cotton wick and are available in different scents which all sound insanely nice. The concrete jars are handmade which blows my mind, they look incredible! Because each candle is handmade, they may vary slightly in the way they look and in texture, but it does not affect the burn time. The candles come with either cork or rubber feet on the base, this is to protect your surfaces and increase stability.

You can find the Concrete Candle HERE priced at £16.00

Concrete Match Pot: These are lovely and such a great idea, plus they are also handmade, there are 4 different variations to choose from, but like the concrete candles, because they are handmade, they may differ in colour and texture. The pots cannot be shipped with matches included and come with a striker strip and either rubber or cork feet, these are for stability and to protect your surfaces. I love these, I haven't seen anything like these before and think they are such a great idea, the fact they are handmade makes them even more special.

You can find the Concrete Match Pot HERE priced at £9.00.

Concrete Tray: These are stunning, each tray is handcrafted and because of this, completely unique, there are 8 different designs to choose from ( 3 are coming soon). Each tray is waxed with a 100% natural sealant to create a water-resistant finish, which is ideal for use in the kitchen or bathroom. They come with either rubber or cork feet for stability and protection of your surfaces.

You can find the Concrete Trays HERE priced at £10.00.

Minimalist Wax Burner: This wax burner is lovely, it has a metal stand with a removable ceramic dish that makes it easy to clean and looks simple but classy.

You can find the Wax Burner HERE priced at £12.00

My Purchases:

I really wanted to support Khila and Karen with their new business by purchasing some things from their website, unfortunately, due to a horrific accident my partner Simon had some years ago resulting in him being set on fire in a gas explosion at work, we don't have candles at home. As well as the physical injuries Simon suffered, he was badly psychologically affected by the accident too, and even years later, he is just about okay with having a birthday cake with candles in the house, but actual candles burning, freaks him out. 

I totally get it and wouldn't want him to feel uncomfortable, so after having a chat with him, I decided to go for 3 of the Travel Tins. The plan was, that I'd burn them whilst he was at work and he was fine with that. 

small business, new small business, smoke and matches, candles, soy candles, cotton wax

small business, candles, soy candles, cotton wick, hand poured candles

The parcel arrived well packaged with the Smoke + Matches logo on the front of the box and inside the Travel Tins were carefully and securely packaged using packing nuggets. There was a thank you card with details of social media accounts and instruction/care details on the reverse, I thought this was a nice touch and also really helpful. 

The 3 Travel Tins I bought were Coffee Shop, Beach House and Good Morning. I love the packaging of the tins, and the labelling too, they look classy and sleek. The lids unscrewed easily, which can sometimes be an issue with my silly hands,  but I was fine. 

When we burned the first candle, we popped the tin on a coaster on our sideboard. Almost as soon as my daughter lit the candle, we could smell it, and I was sat across the other side of the room. We burned Beach House first, followed by Good Morning and lastly, Coffee Shop. The burn time is advised at 15 hours per tin, but I found mine burned longer, and they all smelled lovely, I thought I would have a clear favourite scent but I didn't, they were all really nice. The tins are brilliant if you're unsure of which scent to choose, or if you don't burn candles regularly enough to get a bigger one. 

The photograph above shows how big the tins are, they are a brilliant size and were perfect for us. I am so proud of Khila, the amount of items on the website is incredible, these are hand poured and the concrete items hand made. The amount of work and dedication that goes into this business is unreal, and it shows in the quality of the products, how many products are on the website and how professional the website looks. 

I loved all 3 of the tins I purchased, they were ideal for us and all smelled beautiful. I love the concrete trays too, the colours and metallics in them are so pretty, they look incredible and would make lovely gifts, and not just for candle lovers, I think they'd make a nice jewellery tray too. 

Overall I was really happy with my purchases and love the whole website too, it is easy to navigate and has lots of information on each item, and everything is a great price, especially for handmade items. The products would make lovely gifts and since the C word is upon us, definitely check them out. Plus the wax melt bars are on a 3 for 2 deal until Sunday so a perfect time to buy, to treat yourself or to do some early Christmas gift shopping, or any gift shopping.

If you would like to check out Smoke + Matches, and I highly recommend you do, you can find their website HERE

Good Luck to Khila and Karen as they continue with Smoke + Matches, it's an amazing business with stunning products and I wish you both love and luck as you smash the business world, one wax melt at a time. 

Thank you for reading

Zoë x


Friday 1 September 2023

Affordable Ways to Make the Most of the Last of the Summer Holidays

cheap activities to do in the school holidays, free summer holiday fun, affordable summer holiday activities, last week of the summer holidays

Welcome back, 

How is it the last week of the school summer holidays already? I know in some places in the UK children have already gone back to school, in Scotland they have, but there is still around a week left here in England with most children returning on Wednesday next week (from research I've done online). 

In today's post, I will share with you some activity ideas to do with your children or children you spend time with that are free or budget-friendly. Some of the ideas are things I did with my children when they were small. We went through years when times were extremely difficult financially and we had nothing, some of the ideas are activities I did with my girls during that time, and have done many times since too and which they loved to do.  

These activities don't have to be done during the school holidays, they can be weekend activities too. 


Look Online

First of all, check out your local Facebook groups and pages and your local council website too, these both usually have activities listed and I have found most are free or very affordable. 

Cloud Pictures

When my girls were small one of the things they loved to do on a dry day, was making cloud pictures, we would all lie on the floor in the garden looking up at the sky and we would spend ages making pictures out of the clouds. I would sometimes make stories up from the pictures we found if I was able to, it's completely free, we don't often have no clouds in our skies in the UK and my girls loved it, so much so when their friends came over they always requested we play cloud pictures. 

Indoor/Outdoor Picnic 

Depending on the weather, have a picnic, you can have an indoor carpet picnic or an outdoor picnic in the garden, in a local park or somewhere local there's somewhere nice to sit. I always found that it was how I delivered the activity to my children, so a "carpet picnic" was just basically eating lunch on the floor on a blanket, but throwing in some paper plates, cutting sandwiches into shapes and putting the snacks into bowls sounds exciting for children and saying "oooh shall we have a picnic today?" makes it seem exciting and because you're making lunch anyway, this is a free activity. 


One of my girl's favourite things to do was to chalk outside on the garden floor, or outside on the front path, or sometimes we would take the chalks to the park, and because they are just chalk and wash away with the rain, you're not permanently defacing anything. Obviously, I would always explain to the girls that they shouldn't ever write on the ground in the park unless I was there and it was using chalk, we don't want any graffiti artists haha. We would draw pictures, and do hopscotch, I used to draw a line and teach the girls all the elastic rhymes and routines I did as a child in the playground, who needs elastic? 

Library Visit

Going to the library was one of my girl's favourite things to do, if your littles aren't a member you can sign them up with a library card (or whatever it is nowadays) and then they can spend time choosing books to take home and read, we would also spend time looking at books and reading stories whilst we were visiting the library. My girls loved to learn so taking out a child friendly encyclopedia was something we did and then we would look at it together and find out lots of interesting facts, this was always good if their new class teacher had them write a "what I did in the holidays" because if you haven't been lucky enough to go away, writing down some of the facts they learned is brilliant and the teacher and their classmates always find it interesting too. 
Libraries often have activities on during the holidays too, which are always free, so whilst you are there, see if there is a leaflet you can pick up. 

My Shop 

Playing shop was always a hit in our house, you can use play money, make some from paper or use real money if you have some change to hand or like me you save up 5,2 and 1 pence in a jar, you can use those. 

Set up a shop with the children, they can have one each if there is more than one child, they can make a shop sign first or the day before. They find things around the house they can "sell" in their shop. My girls took ages over their signs and setting up their shops, making them look nice and making price tags for everything too. 

Playing shop is also good to help with learning about money and how much change to give, it's a good numbers game without them realising. 

Old Wallpaper Painting

If like me you end up saving bits of rolls of wallpaper after decorating, keep them, they come in very handy. If you don't have any wallpaper, you can pick up samples from any DIY store or you can use paper that you have stuck together to make a long length. 

Then use paper plates, disposable serving trays or if you haven't got any disposables, baking trays and pour some children's paint in them, then for the messy bit. 

Let your littles put their feet in the paint and then walk/run/dance up and down the rolls of paper, they can use their hands too and any utensils you don't mind them using. Children love making a mess and this would amuse my girls for ages! It is messy and I used to have the baby wipes to hand a bowl of warm soapy water and a towel to clean them off before leaving the area. You can do this outside when it's dry or like me, in the kitchen on washable flooring. 

If you don't want so much mess, crayons, colouring pencils etc is also fun and crawling around on the paper drawing or playing word games is something they'll enjoy too. 

Movie Day & Dens

Perfect for a rainy day, and we've had plenty of those lately, is a movie day, let your children choose a movie from the TV or a DVD you have and put some snacks into bowls and grab some blankets or their duvets. Then make a den out of the blankets, any cushions, pillows and duvets to watch the movie in. Making a den and putting snacks into bowls makes it more exciting and something the littles will love to do. 

Treasure Hunt 

You can do this indoors or outdoors in the garden or any outside area. You can hide items from the house around the house or garden and write clues for the children to find the treasure, the treasure could be some sweeties or their favourite toy or book. 

Alternatively, you can write a list of things for the children to find whilst you go on a walk that they can tick off, like 3 red cars, a big tree, a pink flower or 4 dogs, that kind of thing, the children can then tick the things off as they go and maybe draw the things they saw when they get back home. 


Throughout the year, keep a tub or bag and keep things that might come in for crafting, these can be things from indoors like greeting cards, and they are ideal for crafting. Bits of material, if the children have outgrown clothes or PJs and they aren't really suitable for the charity shop, any buttons you might find or embellishments, you can also find wool in charity shops or craft shops which can be very affordable. 

Then during the holidays, the children can make cards for birthdays and Christmas or gift tags, they can also make collages or they can pictures for people, my family always loved receiving handmade things from the girls. 

One thing my girls adored to make when crafting was peg dollys. You make these from wooden dolly type pegs, you can find wooden Dolly pegs at supermarkets, The Range, and any craft or hardware shop. Then cut up any material scraps you have saved, wool and use felt tip pens to decorate the pegs, making dollys with them. My girls loved doing this, they made seasonal dollys like Santa or angels and even a nativity of sorts, easter-themed dollys, you name it, they made it and they had so much fun doing it too. 

 Summer Project

This is a roundup of all the activities the children have done over the summer, since it's the end of the holidays now, go through any activities you have already done and if you have some activities to do for the next few days til they go back to school you can use those. After each activity or remembering ones you have done over the holidays, ask them to draw pictures and write about their day, what they liked best, what they least liked, and what they would like to do differently next time and rate it out of 5 or 10. You can pick up leaflets or bits and bobs from your activities and if you have a camera phone you can take pictures of them doing each activity too. 

You can have your photographs printed out from your mobile using an online website or via an app, there are some brilliant deals, for example, Snapfish offers 50 free 6x4 prints per month via their app so you can do it all straight from your phone, you just pay the postage which starts at £1.49 and is never more than £3.79 you can find out more from their website HERE

The children can also make a cover or some sort of folder for their holiday project and decorate that too, this can be a big envelope or a plastic wallet, anything at all you have at home or you can find that doesn't cost the earth when you're out and about and you can help with the decorating which they will love too. 

At the end of the holidays, the children can either put their work into the order you did the activity or they can create a big project including bits from each activity. These are great to look back on, especially if you have somewhere to store them and can look back on the ones from previous years from time to time. The children might also like to take their project to school to show their class teacher or once again, it's something they can talk about if they get the "what I did in the holidays" piece of work or chat at school.

That's a wrap
I hope this post has been useful and given you some activity ideas to do with the children in your life. As I said, these aren't necessarily activities just for the summer holidays and can be done during any school holiday or weekend or anytime you like. 

Please let me know if you have found this useful and if you would like more posts like this.  
Zoë x

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