16 January 2010

Wax On, Wax Off

The above title will justify my claims that I have a strange sense of humour...

This last weekend was spent in the kitchen much of the time. I LOVED it too. I never would have thought that making a mess and knowing I would have to clean it up later would result in such a pastime. However, I've discovered that I have tapped into a place of creativity and zen that I have never known before. On my journey to find my Authentic Self, I believe that the kitchen is one of the places I come out.

I decided I had to bake for my upcoming OPAC (that would be Online Public Access Catalog) Committee meeting. This is the first meeting I have had for these people in months, and we have a LOT of work to do in the future. Our libraries will be migrating to a new library automation system in about two years. This system is open-source, which means not only do we have more control and access to the bones of the system - we also have development to do. If I am going to make these demands of my library staffs, I want to make sure they have happy stomachs during these meetings. (Plus maybe then I can get them to agree with me more if they are distracted by food.)

I also threw down a couple dozen scones and muffins for church.

Oh yes, and stew for dinner. I was a productive mama.

So, once the dishes were washed up and the island cleared, I decided it was time to make candles. I got myself a simple kit from the local craft store. I had received beeswax tealights a while ago, and loved them. Needless to say they didn't last long, and I thought that learning to make them myself would be great. Then I could find local beekeepers, get an in on finding local honey and wax, and one day maybe have a hive of my own...

Okay, I was getting ahead of myself again. I am STILL waiting for the Animal Control Officer to get back to me on owning a beehive or chickens within city limits. Since before Christmas. I've heard one tell me that her neighbor's chickens were removed when discovered, however I want to hear it and see the regulation for myself. Or it isn't there.

But, I am still ahead of myself...

I picked up beeswax from the local craft store also. The kit came with paraffin, but no way am I making my candles out of by-product, thank you.

The directions were pretty simple, melt the wax to a certain temperature, fill your containers, set the wicks, do a second and third pour, and voila! Candles!

I thought, how difficult could it be to follow those directions? That thought should have been my first clue...

I chopped up the wax, deciding to do votives as I hadn't gotten any wicks for tealights yet. The set came with wicks for the votives, plus three molds.

Wax went into the pouring pot, which was set into a pot of boiling water. You don't melt wax over direct heat, but with the small amount of wax I used, the pot kept floating up. I finally got the handle braced over the edge of the pot, and the beeswax melted rather quickly.

I checked the temperature a couple of times until it got to where it was supposed to be, around 185.
Then into the molds they went. There was a bit left over, but that would be needed for the next pours. Then I only had to wait about 4-5 minutes to set the wicks. It would just be starting to cool, so they could be set in the bottom.

Aaaaaand...this would be where I went chasing butterflies or something. Checked email, talked with the niblets and hubby, looked at recipes for dinner. Something else. And who needs timers?

Well, obviously I do.

So, when I finally noticed that the candles were skinned all the way over, and after I had my "OHMYGODDESSWHATWASITHINKINGOHYEAHNOTABOUTTHISOBVIOUSLY" rant in my head, I popped the votives into the hot water again until they remelted enough to tuck the wicks in.

The second and third pours went more smoothly. And more under a watchful eye.

But eventually they were set, and they popped out of the molds easily. My first three homemade beeswax candles. Lessons learned - and hopefully remembered.

Now I have some knitting to catch up on.

04 January 2010

Books and Bread

I know - this blog is about books and yarn and ink, right? Trust me, I have yarn, and I WILL have yarn. I have projects on hand and in the head. More will be forthcoming...as will ink.

But for now...

It has been a bookish year for me - not only in reading, which I always have a stack on hand from the library - but actually keeping track of what I read. I love that my library account lets me track my reading history. I know that some people, some librarians won't due to issues with the Patriot Act and believing the less records the better. But dammit, Homeland Security, I don't care if you know that I checked out Catching Fire, A Year of Ritual, and Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Workshop this past week!

Thanks to LibraryThing, I have been able to not only track them better, but compare them to my friends and fellow bookaholics online. I also participated in SantaThing this year, and not only was thrilled with the titles sent to me, Gardening for the Faint of Heart and Storm Born, but had my own passion for young adult literature reignited with playing Santa for another. I completely recommend it!

I picked up the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day not long after reading one of its first reviews. I love artisan bread, but not always its prices. The idea of being able to get a loaf of fresh bread on the table in around an hour was quite exciting, but it sat on my shelf for a while. I did run through one attempt while still living in my apartment. The bread was fine, but the dough was very wet.

Now settling into the house, both my husband and I love fresh bread. Plus I had to pick up the 5 Minutes a Day sequel (Healthy Bread in 5...)this fall when it came out, so we determined it was time to try again. Knowing the issues I had with the loose dough before, I increased the flour by 1/2 cup.

This time - the dough seemed to be right! Loose enough to rise and flatten in the container in the fridge, but not slide through my fingers as I grabbed a large handful to shape into the next loaf.

How successful?

Is that not the most beautiful thing?

And tonight I moved forward in the book and tried a new loaf shape:

Oui, oui...une baguette!

But, that's not all! We also got a manual pasta roller and cutter for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) and while at first my husband was a little bemused about receiving it (The current argument from him in the house exactly how many kitchen accoutrements we must have. Since between us we have three French presses, and two are not mine, I win.) after pulling its shiny silver shape out of the box enthusiasm took over. Last week he made a batch of pasta dough and cut it took spaghetti, then hung it to dry.

He came up with the curtain-rod-as-drying-rack idea. He's smart and handy like that. The dinner was delicious: fresh pasta, fresh bread and sauce made from crushed tomatoes, spices and agave syrup.

So, winter is rearing its head here in MA now. It snowed through most of the weekend and the temps are finally staying low enough to keep the snow around. However, I now have a bright spot in January:

I think these are almost as pretty as the bread. Almost.

I will be waiting anxiously until the yard becomes clear again. You see, this year I will get to create my garden. From scratch. Our home's owner didn't plant outside, and has pretty much given me free rein to garden. I have lots of plans, plans for vegetable beds and herbs. For a couple flower beds too. With the fences bordering parts of the property, there is plenty of space for berry bushes and lilac bushes too!

Plenty of space, and lots of plans. Lots of work also, and probably far more than my budget will allow. But a girl can dream.
This girl does.