Monday, March 30, 2009

Crafting Attempt, Part Four and final for now.

It was a late night, and a long night, with coughing fits for Chris and really, really bad, unfair dreams for me. But this... this came out really pretty, actually. It looks how I wanted it to look.

So, this candle was a fuss. Most things were going wrong. The seal didn't work--it wasn't quite a flat tube. I had to tie wax paper to it with a hair band, and keep messing with it after the first couple pours to make sure the wax paper stuck up against the 'mold,' instead of continuing to creep up the sides of the paper. And the green wax was a pain; it filmed densely over the top while it was still completely liquid underneath, so when I'd try to pour on a new layer, it just.. kinda'.. fell through the one below it, most of the time. I really didn't match my waxes well, this time.

I scraped so much spilled wax off of the stove, and re-melted hunks of wax way too many times... aaagh...

But, I think the sides must have kept their layers, pretty well, even while the center was getting muddy. If I was mixing smells, this could have been really gross, but since only the green wax was scented (and was too strong, at that), maybe it'll just be diluted and mild. This may have accidentally gone ideally well. I *did* want blurry layers--I wanted this one to look really organic.

I'm... that's just... yeah. <3 I needed that.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

VICTORY!! (Crafting Attempt, Part 3)

Crafting Attempts, Part Two

Sorry for the rapid update, but a few other notes:

This may be a pretty obvious step, but I kind of picked debris out of the melted wax with a toothpick (bits of singed wax or paper, bits of wick, whatever might have been stuck to it). And rather than pouring messily from the bowls I'm using (which are metal, btw), I'm using a little plastic thing I got out of the recycle bin as a pour scoop. It's working okay, not melting, not burning my fingers, etc. Wax tends to have a pretty low melting point, so the temperature it's at hasn't been harmful to anything else, so far (the cardboard tube isn't catching fire, the box top isn't getting melted onto anything, I can move them comfortably, etc.).

I'm trading the bowls while they're still hot from the top of the double boiler with one of those oven gloves, so no steam scalding.

I poured my first little layer of wax (probably not more than a cm thick) while just pressing the tube down against the box top, since it wouldn't stay stuck all the way around from just my wax dipping, and this pouring sealed it down fine--it didn't leak. I just made sure to kind of brace it a little while it cooled a bit. I also trimmed the tube so that it was a little shorter than my wick, and I draped my wicky guy over a pencil that I sat across the center of the mouth of the tube, so it would stay pretty straight upright in the wax.

And finally, if you're interested, here are some of the sites I looked at, which all had different bits of usefulness, and all assumed different levels of preparedness:

Presumably more to come, when candling has ceased! My first one is about as tall as it ought to be, and I think I should probably wait on doing any more until I see how it behaves, but... but.... I have more coated box lid, that might be more like the inside of a milk carton, and that could probably be wrapped into a thicker, pillar-y shape... And.. and I've got all this white and creamy unscented or vanilla scented wax.. and I go through sooo many of those..... And, and, I've got things I could roll a finished candle in, and... . .

Crafting Attempts, Part One

I love being crafty. I love repurposing things, making things, out of any material at all.

Unfortunately, I hate buying supplies. Even, um, necessary supplies. Like, say, molds, for candles. So, I go around doing everything I can think of to avoid getting these essentials. Usually, I try and fail--or try, and achieve utter mediocrity--with whatever I have lying around or can dig out of the trash or recycle bin.

("I can't help it," said the snake, "it is my nature.")

Anyway. Occasionally I do get pretty good results, or at least results I can work with, or learn from.

As mentioned above, candles. (Hopefully.)

I save all wax, because in addition to wanting to be crafty and not buy anything new, I also hate to throw anything away. I LOVE candles, burn a TON of candles, and occasionally feel guilty--as a replacement for fossil-fuel-fueled electricity, they're not so hot. Disproportionate carbon emissions, etc, but they're also frequently made of paraffin--which is (tada!) a petroleum product.

Plus, they're often dyed. And scented. Preeeetty. Smell goooood.

In short, there's no way I'm throwing this shit away.

So, I stock up big bags full of wax--pillars that have burned their wicks down. Chunks that have dripped free of votives. Occasionally even the little ring of wax left inside the edges of tealights. And then, when I get tapers from Trader Joe's, which come in pairs connected by a long piece of wick, I save the wick I cut from the middle.

I did a little internet research, and hmm'd and hah'd. "Hah," I thought, "I will melt all of these reddish ones together. Alas, I have no mold, and no wick long enough for making dip tapers--I will stick a wick inside of a glass tealight holder, and then pour the wax in around it, and it will make a kind of jar candle. Genius!"

This did not work. The wick floated up immediately. The wax sank hard in the middle. And if I could get the wick to stay down a little, when I lit them, they became gooey pools, and they swallowed their own wicks, and then I couldn't even light them again to get their wicks to float back up for me to light. Or else, they melted all the way down, and the wick floated up from the bottom again, before (yes) getting sealed in the wax and beyond fishing back up.

So I tried attaching the wicks to the little metal things that come in tealights (which I also could fish out of the trash can). I did a little more minimal research, and tried to find ways to keep the tip of the wick up. Then I melted all the bluish wax I had, and tried again.

The little metal things float, too, when a bucket of wax hits them. And they still sink into the still-present pit while burning.

Sadness and woe!

About this point in any project (i.e., utter failure), I take one of two routes: admit defeat, and put it away, or return to research. Or I combine the two: put it away for many months and sulk, before being prompted back into wanting to do it again (once the sting of shame has worn off), and then start researching properly. (This was the candle route; last night we did the Earth Hour thing, and had a candlelit cocktail hour or three, and I started Hmming and Hahing about candle efficiency, again.)

This brings on the Googling. And this mighty Googling inevitably leads me back to the need for Supplies. Which I still won't buy.

However, it gives me better ideas for improvisation.

I look up recycling wax. This works approximately how I thought; save it up, melt it down in a double boiler when you're going to use it. Try to use similar kinds of wax--wax from the same kind of candle, etc. Don't mix smells that won't go together or colors that'll look muddy. Then (these sites say casually), pour it in your mold.

Screw your mold, websites, I'm not waiting on a trip to the Michael's and the inevitable ensuing moment of weakness. I want instant gratification.

So I look up alternate molds.

"Milk carton candles?" I say. "This is promising. But they're too big. I'm not spending all that wax, when I'm not even sure I'll get my wick to stick. Plus, nowhere to put a candle so thick." So I'm going with a toilet paper tube, gently stuck down to part of a cereal-box-style lid with a little wax. I have no idea if this will come off of the cooled candle, in the end, but I can hope. I stuck one of the little metal wick holders down with wax, too, thinking this might help.

I read about layered votives, too. Using up multiple kinds of leftover or recycled wax, with different smells and different colors. THIS is where the genius tips came in.

Pour a little at a time, they say, and let it cool partway, so the layer remains distinct, and so it has a chance to get a little structural integrity. And so far, this has stopped the wick from floating all over (at least if I don't pour so much that it completely melts all the wax below it). But don't let it cool completely, they say--it'll shrink in, and then you'll get the next layer poured all over, between the lower layer and the mold, and then you have no pretty striations. Poke holes occasionally in the cooling wax near the wick--then when you pour your next layer, it'll fill in a bit where the shrinking is happening, and it won't just dissolve from lack of density. When the candle has cooled some, they say, it'll still have a pit (which I knew from experience); pour a tiny bit more wax into the center, or run a hair dryer over the top to melt in the edges, before letting it cool again and before unmolding. Repeat as necessary.

Yes! Yes! A thousand times, yes!

So now I've got my old Pumpkin Spice candle remains (earthy browny orange). And my old Mexican Pumpkin candle remains (brighter orange). And my Cinnamon votive remains. All melting in different bowls, traded on and off of the hot pot of water

And I am layering. Oh, yes. And occasionally poking holes. And making different widthed layers. And I am hoping very hard that the toilet paper tube will tear away, when all is said and done, and that the candle will lift off of the box lid.

There may still be incredible Fail. But I will keep you Posted.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Life is a Cabaret...

"It was the end of the world. And I was dancing with Sally Bowles--and we were both fast asleep." (from "Willkommen (Reprise)", Cabaret)

Spent the morning listening to the New Broadway Cast recordings of /Cabaret/, which I love much. If any of you are interested, someone's posted video of Natasha Richardson as Sally Bowles from said Broadway run, singing 'Maybe This Time.' It's quite lovely.

Maybe this time, I'll be lucky
Maybe this time, he'll stay
Maybe this time,
For the first time,
Love won't hurry away

He will hold me, fast
I'll be home at last
Not a loser anymore
Like the last time
And the time before

Everybody loves a winner
So nobody loved me
'Lady Peaceful,' 'Lady Happy,'
That's what I long to be!
All the odds are in my favor
Something's bound to begin!
It's got to happen, happen sometime,
Maybe this time, I'll win
It's got to happen, happen sometime...
Maybe this time--maybe this time--I'll win.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

Still sick, but getting occasional flashes of a voice, so that's an improvement--just trying not to overdo it. But cooking and partying's still on, damnit. I'm cooking this, as usual, only this year I'm ALSO baking my OWN sour caraway rye. Cross your fingers for that one, eh?

And remember: whether or not you're Irish, you gotta' respect a people who tried (and mostly managed) to hang onto their language, dance, music, and (of course) national colors in the face of being hanged for doing so. So put on a little green and have a toast and feel the love. Slainte!

The Wearin' of the Green

O Paddy dear, and did ye hear the news that's goin' round?
The shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish ground!
Saint Patrick's Day no more we'll keep, his colour can't be seen
For there's a cruel law ag'in the Wearin' o' the Green."
I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand
And says, "How's poor ould Ireland, and how does she stand?"
"She's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen
They're hanging men and women there for Wearin' o' the Green."

But if the colour we must wear is England's cruel red
Let it remind us of the blood that Ireland has shed!
Pull the shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod
But fear not, for 'twill take root there, though underfoot 'tis trod.
When laws can stop the blades of grass from growin' as they grow,
And when the leaves in summertime their colour dare not show
Then I will change my colour, too, to wear in my caubeen
And till that day, praise God, I'll stick to Wearin' o' the Green.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wherein you all suffer for my not being able to speak out loud.

Update: This is not going to be my third bad week at choir, after all. This is going to be my not-at-choir-at-all week, for the first time... um... ever.

(The general rule is, if you can get out of bed, even if you can't sing, you should at least come and sit and listen, so you don't fall behind. You can get notes, get a feel for the music, etc. Especially useful right now while we're doing German text and Poulenc, and would be able to hear correct pronunciation and crazy ass intervals, respectively.)

But, by Doc's* orders, I'm not leaving the house, today. This is probably my fault. Let me explain: Since, um, I got myself sick of TV by overuse the first week (perhaps a tale of police procedural obsession for another day), and didn't feel like I had the concentration or eye strength for reading or knitting, and couldn't speak, and was too tired to do anything else, and was becoming bored to tears? I spent yesterday with tea, Google, and youtube. Looking up BSL (British Sign Language)**, BSL (Breed-Specific Legislation)†, Girl Scout Cookies††, and things like bronchitis, croup, and pneumonia, just because. All of which I shared with my Love, in a combination of charades, scribbled notes, and occasional ill-advised whispering.

And Love is now exceedingly worried about me getting/having The Pneumonia and death, and is even threatening to make me go to the doctor, which is almost unspeakable, in this house. (I am actually not showing any signs that aren't just more likely to be bronchitis or a really bad cold, so no worries pls.) But the whole... me not being able to speak thing (TRAUMA), and not breathing well/getting really snorty while sleeping is freaking him out some. It's very sweet. But I Do Not want to go to the doctor. PLEASE no. Please?

*Disclaimer: Doc Nagel is a PhD in Philosophy, and is not licensed to dispense medical advice. This does not stop him, especially when he can tell me to do something "by Doctor's orders." He's got a "Trust me, I'm a Doctor" mug, and we frequently make the "Mother always wanted me to marry a doctor" cracks (which isn't true, actually, but necessary). I love this. <3

**This is because I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral for the first time, and was really curious about the signing. It looked nooothing like ASL or SEE***--especially the fingerspelling--so I wanted to see if it was just really that different, or if they were making it up. Verdict: it's just that different. So I taught myself the BSL alphabet, as well as some basic greetings and questions. ...I think of funny things to do, sometimes. (OMG BORED.) I also brushed up on my ASL colors and the few fiddly letters I mix up (X and Q), and read about the advent of SEE, which seems to be what they were teaching at my elementary school, and is consequently what I learned a lot of as a kid. This has caused a certain amount of Fuss when I've talked about signing with hearing ASL learners.

† Breed-specific legislation is a special kind of evil I wouldn't have even known about if not for the acronym accidentally being the same as for (tada!) British Sign Language. So: In some places, if a city council or state legislature has decided some breed or other is "dangerous," they can 'impound' and 'destroy' any member of that breed--or sometimes even mixed breeds that look more like that breed. Or, they can impose radical confinement, large fines, forced spay/neuter for JUST that breed (not others), not allow that breed to be adopted from shelters, not insure people with those animals, etc etc etc. So let me be clear: in some places, because some people have raised rottweilers or American pit bull terriers or Doberman pincers badly in the past, your well-raised, well-trained, no-signs-of-aggression baby who is even just *part* pitbull and *looks* like one can legally be taken away from you and killed, just for existing. (None of which does anything to stop someone's maladjusted weimereiner from killing someone, or an inbred cocker spaniel from taking a kid's finger. I thought we got over eugenics in the 20's? Nature-v-nurture, anybody?) Stop BSL--good website. You can look up whether this kind of thing is going on in your area.

††Did you know there are 2 different bakers for the Girl Scout Cookies? One is ABC Bakers and one is the Little Brownie Bakers. Individual Girl Scout councils negotiate with one or the other for their cookies, and neither baker makes the full complement of cookies. In the area I'm in now, because the local councils made the MISTAKE of going with ABC Bakers (instead of the Little Brownie Bakers--who we had in LA), you can't get the Lemon Creme Chalets at all up here--but you can get a new flat, creamless lemon cookie. You can't get the brand new Dulce de Leche--but that's okay, you can get a reduced fat, "pre-packaged in 100 calorie snack packs" mini cookie. ABC has also renamed most of the cookies: Samoas are called "Caramel deLites" (which are not, by any means, "Lite," so I don't know why they went with the silly health food spelling). Tagalongs are Peanut Butter Patties. Do-Si-Do's are Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Trefoils are Shortbread. OH MY GOD ABC do you have NO IMAGINATION??? ::....pointlessly furious:: ...I feel like I've unfairly maligned Turlock; all this time, I thought that maybe in some areas, they just assumed no one would know what Samoa was, or Tagalog, and thought it was best not to reference it at all. But it's actually a whole big cookie divide. (Then again, maybe the local council made the decision for the same reason, I can't say.) Anyway, this all came about because I was trying to figure out why the local Scouts have crapped out so early. I've been walking around with $14 in quarters, trying to score another heap of Thin Mints and Samoas (and, I thought, maybe some Lemon Creme Chalet's, but it ain't gonna' happen, apparently) before the season's out, but there is not a Girl Scout in sight. WOE.

***SEE is "Signed Exact English"--it's a kind of modified ASL that has 1) added letter shapes to signs, to distinguish similar concepts with different names (e.g. happy -vs- merry; instead of having one sign for the basic concept, as in ASL, you'd use an "h" shape with that sign to denote "happy" and an "m" shape to denote "merry," in SEE), and 2) imposed English grammar/syntax--codifying more pronouns, tenses, prepositions, etc, so that every word in an English sentence would be represented by a sign (e.g. to say you had two cats, you would sign out exactly: "I have two cats," in SEE, instead of something like "two cats, me.") It was invented in the '70's with the idea of making it easier to learn to write in English, so it got popular in schools, but it's an imposed structure and the deaf community seems pretty divided.

....Um. Maybe y'all know it, since we haven't met many times, and I was probably on ...fairly good behavior? But this (see above) is how I talk. There is a certain sprinkling of ADD and unbridled Chatty-Cathy-ism that I've slowly calmed, over the years (I was actually even very quiet, for a long time), but which is currently bubbling back up violently towards the surface. I am a fount of useless information always, but I can usually keep it in my pants when I'm not specifically prompted. (For instance, on a normal day, if I had seen one of you had mentioned Girl Scout Cookies, you might have got the Cookie Battle information, and so spared the rest of the world this fate, and I wouldn't have felt the need to go on and on. But no. Not today.)

On car rides, as a little kid, my aunts actually offered me money to shut up for Five Whole Minutes. And I never, ever made it. Because I could be quiet for a few minutes, but by then my brain had worked out so much that needed sharing, I couldn't wait. ....They still tease me about this.

Chris is going through this.

You are going through this.

I am going batshit.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The quick version:

Went to Arlington/DC for the better part of a week for a conference with Chris, had a good time. Picked up or developed something particularly virulent, probably en route home. Two Mondays ago, it turned into the nastiest cold I've had since mono, replete with a bad fever, hacking cough, etc. Spent the next week on the couch, useless and miserable and devouring tapioca and jello.

That weekend, felt much much better, so much so that we managed a little carousing. I only had a little cough/stuffy head, and we'd planned to for weeks and weeks in advance, and we'd already had to shift plans back to accommodate the Sick. So, we got to spend the night out with four--FOUR--of Chris's best friends from grad school, all of whom I love and haven't been able to spend much time with. It was a lot of fun. I was even able to sing most of the choir rehearsal the next night.

And then I started getting sicker, again. Still, we pushed on; shit to do, and I was getting a little cabin fever. This week--or, actually, weekend, I guess--we acquired and assembled storage benches we've been needing for, oh, a year, and have been pretty busy with cleanup and rearranging, etc etc.

So now, a week after I was doing so well, it's devolved completely again; I have no voice whatsoever (TRAUMA!!! D: ), breathing is iffy, swallowing's a treat, and the substances coming out of my lungs are unwholesome at best. I'm still not as sick as I was to begin with, thank goodness, but this is going to be my third choir rehearsal in a row in bad condition, and I've missed my knitting group three times. And I've got plans, damnit. Tuesday is My Day. I cook and sing and carouse, and there's no negotiating that. I was planning to be all better by then. We're having people in; I'm cooking for 5, this time, which I've never done.

Come on, body... Please....

--Anyway. I don't have any energy for doing the catchup dance. So, please! Tell me something nice or interesting that's happened to you in the last three weeks, and send some love my way. I'll send it right back to you. <3