Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Miracle of Hanukkah

"Hmm, it looks like we only have nine Hanukkah candles. So if we light one the first night, we won't have enough left for the rest of the 8 days. What should we do?"

Although I saved all the candles on display instead of lighting them, today (day after the last day of Hanukkah) I discovered three more boxes of Hanukkah candles in my candle drawer! It's the miracle of the candles that burned for eight days when there were only enough for year, I will actually light them.

And why was I looking in my candle drawer? Because I was making my yearly batch of recycled candles! They always end up being red and green, because my favorite store-bought candles are a red one that has a vanilla-cinnamon-flowers sort of holiday scent and Pacifica Fig, which is green. My friend Colette wanted to make candles, so I busted out the votive molds, wicks, and a ton of burnt-out candle ends and empty candle jars, and, like magic, one 28-ounce-can of warm wax scraped off the kitchen floor later, a bunch of new candles to use and give away.

I was going to write out directions, but there are plenty out there, so I'll just add my personal tips:

*Use a big steel can, like from 28 ounces of tomatoes, inside of a small saucepan, as a double boiler. Make sure the wax in the can is at a higher level than the water in the pot, so the can is heavy enough to not tip over.

*Unsplit disposable wooden chopsticks are excellent for holding the wicks up while you pour the candles. You can see one in the photo--just slip the wick in between the two sides of the chopsticks without splitting them all the way apart.

But hey, how is our homestead project going? Well, some good news: Dan's blackberry freezer jam is so amazing that it transports us back to summer every time we eat it, to those bright, neverending afternoons when Dan would show up on his bike with scratches up and down his arms and a gallon jug of fresh blackberries, still warm from the sun. Also, pears picked in October and persimmons and kiwis picked in November are still ripening. We stuck some in the fridge and have been taking them out gradually so we have an ongoing supply. It's working perfectly. You can see them here alongside one of Dan's famous Dutch Babies, which happened to be served with five kinds of homemade jam.

OK news: most of the Long Keeper tomatoes ripened, and we ate them. They were mediocre. Some of them turned all the way red and got somewhat sweet and flavorful, but several spoiled before ripening and some were still sour and a little bitter after they turned red.

Not-so-good news: the greenhouse isn't doing a great job of keeping things alive all winter. That hard freeze at Thanksgiving was really unfortunate, because it's been warm enough since then, but only a few lettuces, a pot of arugula, and my friend Rob's lemon tree are still hanging in there, and those mainly because I brought them in the house when it froze. However, it's still warmer than outside and nicely wind- and rain-proof, so I think it will be great for starting plants in the early, early spring...which is almost here!

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