Friday, December 17, 2010

Flowers at Christmas time

It is obvious: it is Christmas time, but we can't speak just about food, decorations and presents.
There are also flowers, although this might sounds a bit out of context.

Well, first of all, I must say that my schlumberga has flowered really fine this year. Perfect colors for Christmas time!

And we got some nice jacynth, which I have to learn to take care of before killing them, with a wonderful smell and shape.

It is holiday time now. Let's see if there will be more updated here! :-)


Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Last year I started a personal tradition of punishing myself by baking some hundreds of the ginger bread cookies.
This year of course, I had to respect such new tradition and I started by doing them for our other new tradition, the Christmas dinner with our friends.
Unfortunately, I need to improve in taking pictures. Sorry for that.

Here there is my recipe:
 Plan the gingerbread in advance, since it has to rest in the fridge for at least one day.
Ingredients for about 300 gingerbreads:
300g butter
5dl sugar
1dl light syrup
1 spoon of ground ginger
1 spoon of ground clove
1 spoon of ground cinnamon
2 tea spoons of ground cardamom
1 spoon of bicarbonate
2 dl vatten
15 dl flour

 Take the butter at room temperature and mix it with the sugar and the syrup. Create an homogeneous dough.
 Pour down all the spices (I usually grind most of them myself, it tastes much better!) and the bicarbonate and keep mixing.
 Add the water and at the end the flour. I add both gradually. If you use an electric device, you are done. Otherwise you need to work the dough on some surface and make it looks homogeneous and with a quite compact consistency.

 You need then to put some plastic wrap or some aluminum foil around it and let it rest in the fridge. I think that if it remains in the fridge a couple of days more the taste will be even better.
 Take out a bit at the time of the dough, cover your baking board with flour and the rolling pin and start to stretch the dough over the surface. I have a little bit of water on the side in case the dough is too dry. If it is too soft I add a bit of flour.
The dough should be quite thin, that is the hardest part :-)
 Choose your favorite molds  (these years I added new animals to the lonely cats) and create the shapes for the cookies. Prepare an oven plate with some baking paper and put the cookies on top.
Warm up the oven to 200-225 °C.
If you don't have the baking paper you can put butter on the plate. But then it is harder to clean!
Let the cookies be in the oven for 4-5 minutes (if they are quite thin, otherwise around 7 if they are a bit thicker). Nevertheless, until they look golden-brown.
Take them out of the oven and let them rest. They will be a bit soft at first but they will become harder with time.
You can preserve them in boxes for 1-2 months at room temperature or chillier. You can also freeze them and keep them for 3-6 months.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Still work in progress!

This autumn we started a quite huge project, although it might seem quite small from other eyes (certainly, compared with putting a roof on a house it is indeed small).
However, the "project" doesn't involve just painting and putting a wallpaper, but also "ordering" everything, covering boxes with nice paper, putting labels on things and so on and so forth and it is quite challenging considering that the room in itself is quite small.

We have as the matter of fact decided to make nice our "walk-in closet", which is not just a simple walk-in closet, but a room where we store also several things.
We have not yet finished with the project, we are actually at the very beginning!
The worse problem is that all the objects stored there are now spread everywhere in the guest-room, which has become inaccessible! I am longing for proceeding with this project after New Year so that we can finally free up the guest-room and find our objects again, without digging.

Without looking at how it was before we took out everything, this is the working site. Must say that the original work done on the walls here was quite accurate...not.

An enthusiastic worker is enjoying his task and his tools!
Finally, the results of the first task: a nice pink-cream color on all the walls, except one. There we will put some wallpaper.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to make recycled candles

It has been quite some years that I have started my collection of candles leftovers.
Yes, every time we have been using a candle, I have always put in a box all the leftovers. Big candles, small candles, extremely small ones.

I thought it was a waste to throw them away and that there should have been a way to take them, melt them again and make a new candle out of it.
Some time ago, then I searched a bit on Google and I found some indications. However, I lacked time and inspiration for putting myself in action.
I decided, after consulting myself with my friend Johanna, to make the idea concrete this autumn. Not an easy thing. Work, several activities and trips have been hindering the execution, although I have finally started to collect input on how to do them (for example, where to buy all the equipment) and the items themselves and last week, we found a time to execute the plan!

Of course the first thing to do is collecting candles leftovers. If you have big pieces you can choose to put them in the freezer for a while and then smash them in small pieces with the hammer (in a plastic bowl). This might help to melt the candle faster. I didn't see a big improvement. As preparation, we have put newspaper all around the kitchen stove in order to avoid stains or other mess.

You take then an old pot (I bought it in some second hand store for 4€) and fill it quite little with water. If you put too much water the containers will float around.
I am using some metal cans for melting the candles. You can buy even some special container, but I thought this worked really nicely.
We put in each can pieces of candles of about the same color, otherwise we risk to come some really fancy disgusting color. White makes it a bit lighter.
You can melt it even if there is some metal part from the tea light candles or some leftover of the wick. You can remove them easily with a stick when the wax is melted.
I used some old bamboo sticks for stirring the melted wax.

In the meanwhile that the wax is melting we prepared the forms for the candles.
I used some old paper plate as bottom, in case the wax decided to leak out and old paper containers, like milk packages or juice packages properly cut, or toilet paper rolls, with the bottom closed by silver tape.
The only object I bought was the wick. Johanna fixed the bottom to the bottom of the form with some tape and the top was knot around a bamboo stick so that the wick was almost straight.

Once the wax was melted we poured it into the container and let it rest for a while.
I was surprised that out of a lot of candles rest just little "new" candle could be made. Hence, we decided to experiment to make stripes.
The important thing is that the candle solidify before pouring another color on.

Unfortunately, in this attempt the wax in the container seemed cold enough, but it was not, so some color went up and got mixed with the new one.

Once the wax is solid (after one day of rest), it is enough to remove the paper package and cut the wick until it is of a proper length.
I think this, for being the first experiment, was quite good and since I have been using mainly leftovers from perfumed candles, I didn't have to add any essence to the melted wax and the candle still is smelling pretty  nicely (although of a not precise odor).

Good luck!


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas time

Outside it is really snowing. This is the first time that it snows so much so early, even for being in Sweden.
Anyway, the whiteness makes it even more "Christmas time" and now, with all the typical lights at the windows, we know that the countdown has started.
For me, putting the Christmas decorations "so early" have been always quite strange.
In my family we (I until few years ago) were doing the Christmas tree the 8th of December.
Here in Sweden I was putting up those few decorations we had (3 objects) that date, but going away about 10 days afterwards for our Christmas holidays, it was really sad to not use them at all.

Last year, I also added more decorations, finally. The work for having a nice decoration set is still at the very beginning but I think it has improved a lot the cosiness of our apartment.
Except for the light on the balcony (for which we are simply waiting some less critical temperature), I have already prepared everything and I am afraid I will not have the time to enhance it due to other tons of plans we have between a weekend away and another.

Last year, I also decided to uniform to the Swedish (roman catholic based) advent and put up the decorations then. If we would really like to be picky, in my case (ambrosian catholic church) the advent starts even two weeks earlier! But that would be TOO much here, so I feel for the Swedish tradition. At least we have in general three weeks for enjoying the decorations!

And a Christmas dinner is planned already...the menu "simply" needs to be designed yet.

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