Hand dipped Hanukkah-candles.

Here in Israel there are two categories of Hanukkah candles for sale. There are the regular ones. And there are the fancy hand dipped ones. The latter are many times more expensive than the first, so when we take into account the amount of candles needed to light all of our hanukkiot, it is not a difficult choice at all. We buy the regular ones.

hand dipped candles

Then last year, when we after Hanukkah made candles of leftover wax from old candles, I got the idea that we could hand dip our Hanukkah candles by ourselves! So, yesterday was the day. We were going to have our annual candle-making, and boy, did it become a PRODUCTION!!

hand dipped candles

After having worked on it for about five hours (!), I did the math, and realized that I had hand-dipped close to seven hundred candles!!!

dipping candles

The children were excited to be part of it in the beginning. Our girl left the project early on, as she didn’t like how hot it was and all of that. Our boy stayed with it for a bit longer, because he was very excited to make special Thanksgiving – Hanukkah – candles. This is the first time in history that those two holidays come at the same time, so it is a pretty big thing. We have fall-colored candles and even pumpkin-pie-scented Hanukkah-candles (hard to beat, huh?).

dipping candles

I am very happy with the result of our candle-dipping, and think it was all worth it, even though it did take a loooong time. We will have very special and unique hanukkah-candles for this holiday (or rather; these holidays!).

hand dipped candles

The idea is very simple really. You start by melting some wax in some empty cans in a pot of boiling water. We had some wax from old candles, but you could of course just take some hanukkah-candles.

candle dipping

Once it is melted, you dip your candle in it, and get this nice “fancy” look of a candle with two different colors. It takes them a moment to dry, and I quickly realized that it would take waaaaayy to long to stand around and hold each candle until it had dried, so I used a hanukkiah as a “drying rack”…

hand dipped candles

Also, – since I was making such a huge amount, I had to keep on returning the can of wax to the pot of boiling water for the wax to stay melted enough.

I admit, it was a mess to clean up from afterwards… But we might as well just get used to cleaning a lot of wax as there will be plenty of it during Hanukkah…. And again, – it was so worth it! Our candles are so beautiful. And they smell so good!

hand dipped candles

And, as with anything homemade, – they are all different! Each one unique and one of a kind.

hand dipped hanukkah candlesI like to think of the hanukkah-candles as symbolizing people. All of us different, unique, one of a kind. All of us lit by the Shamash, the Servant Candle, together making a bright light that helps spread warmth and remove darkness.

Homemade edible dreidels

We have been talking about this craft for a little while, and decided that Friday would be a good day for a this special one. So finally, – we made edible sevivonim / dreidels for Hanukkah. (*Who knows if there will be any left by the time Hanukkah comes around… oh, well, then there will be other goodies!)

edible dreidels

Here is what you need:

ingredients for edible dreidels

Marshmallows, Pretzel sticks and Hershey kisses. (And Nutella, which we soon found out by experience.)

You make a hole in the Marshmallow, which you stick the Pretzel through.

making edible dreidels

The idea was that you were going to make a whole in the chocolate too, and stick the pretzel into that. But that did not work. (We had to suffer through eating broken chocolates and pretzels as we learnt this the hard way. ;-)) So, we used “glue” instead (glue = Nutella or Peanutbutter or something like that).

making edible dreidels

This worked very well, and we were able to finish the project really fast.

edible dreidels

We also decorated for Hanukkah on Friday, which is not a minimalistic project in this home…

hanukkah decorations

Make a Personal Pillow with Text.

My father in law had his birthday a few days ago. So again we were faced with, – what do we get him for his birthday…?!

I must say, I think women are a hundred percent easier to buy gifts for than men! One could just get a nice cream or shampoo, candles and napkins, vase, teacups or cookie-jars, – the list is endless! Not so with men.

And I like getting people gifts, something that will show them that we thought of them, that we appreciate them, care for them. But, – what to get??! It’s not easy! For this man in particular, we normally get something related to wine, as that is something we know he likes. We have gotten him cool wine holders to display his wine-bottles, nice wine glasses, fancy wine openers and so on. But let’s face it, – how many of those can one man have??! So I was really hoping to come up with a more creative idea this time around. And wouldn’t you know it, -during one of my runs, a creative idea for a gift for my father in law came to me! *Another good reason for running! 😉

The idea was a personal pillow with the text: “There is no one like GRANDPA” in Hebrew written on it. This is how it came out in the end:

personal pillow

And considering it was quite quick and simple, I thought I would share the steps for making it. 🙂

Start by cutting your material to fit your pillow. I basically did it almost three times the height of the pillow, so that it is partly doubled over in the back. (Too bad I forgot to take a picture of that before I gave it away!) It basically means that where the opening is, there are two layers of cloth so that a strip of the inner pillow will not accidentally be seen. And it is very convenient to have an opening, so that you can take the pillowcase off to wash it easily. Leave an extra few centimeters around the edges for seams.

Next work on your text. Mark off where the center of the front of your pillow will be, and get started on writing. I just write with a permanent marker through some letter-shapes. (Tip: Always keep a piece of paper underneath to protect your table.)

writing on pillow

To help protect the writing and keep it from being ruined when getting wet or during a wash, it is recommended to iron it with a hot iron. (But even so, I think one should be careful when washing it, especially the first time. I recommend washing it by hand.)

ironing permanent marker text

Now is the time for the actual sewing. First sew a zigzag-seam around the edges of the whole cloth, to keep it from loosing threads and coming apart. Then sew a nice double edge at the edges that will be on the back of the pillow. (*Hmm… Didn’t take any photos of this part either. My confidence level with the sewing machine still needs to grow a bit, I guess.) Next, you pin the whole thing together inside out and sew the sides together. Turn it back to the right side, and walla, – you have your own personal pillow case! Stuff it with a comfy pillow and you have a nice and personal gift!

The receiver of this pillow seemed to like it, which is of course very rewarding when you have made something for someone. The children also brought him beautiful paintings that they had really invested in, – and that were highly appreciated.

personal pillow with text

P.S. Of course you can add more to the pillow as far as different fabrics or lace or something, but I wanted to keep this one simple, and in that way more masculine.

For the love of candles!

candlesHanukkah may be over, but winter is most definitely still here, which means it is still a very good time to light candles, – lots of candles! I love candles! They just bring with them a special sort of relaxed atmosphere. There is something alive and beautiful about them. Somehow candles encourage us to enjoy the moment, don’t you think? And hello, – they literally LIGHT up our world a bit!

candlesI can be found to light candles even in the middle of the summer. Here in Israel we have warm and dark summer evenings, and to then sit outside in the garden with a few candles, is a very nice experience! But there is no competing with how perfect candles are in the cold and dark fall and winter! To me, they add to the quality of life! So, yes, I go through a fair bit of candles during a year. But I am not a person to waste stuff, and in this post, I want to show you what I do with the left-over wax from large candles like the big one featured in the pictures above. I keep the left over bits of wax in zip lock bags in my large candle drawer, and once a year I melt the wax to make new candles from it. (This activity is ideally done during Hanukkah, but this year we just weren’t able to fit it in, and anyway, it was nice to have something fun to do the day after Hanukkah too!)

By the way, this is a GREAT way to use broken Hanukkah-candles too! Anyone who has put candles in a few hanukkiot night after night, knows how easily they break, especially when children try to “help”.

So, step one, – collect all your left-over wax from old candles.

left-over wax from old candles

left-over wax from old candles

Step two, – prepare the moulds, cups or glasses that you would like to make your candles in. Glue a piece of wick to the bottom of the mould, and tie the other end to a stick on top that will keep it in place. (At this point I also added various flavors and smells to my candles, but in retrospect I think the oils would have mixed better had I added them straight to the melted wax.)

moulds prepared for candles

Step three, – put the wax in old empty cans in boiling water, to heat and melt. Be careful not to let the cans fall over and get any water in them. It is helpful to use a pot that just fits your cans, and stay nearby to help keep them upright.

melting wax

Step four, – pour your melted wax carefully into the prepared moulds. I didn’t get any pictures of this part, as I naturally needed both hands to pour… But I did get a photo of my children dipping candles into the colored can of wax, and thereby changing the color of their candles and giving them this handmade kind of look. (By the way, this is what I want to do to simple hanukkah candles before hanukkah next year! Writing it down here to hopefully help me not forget…)

candle-dipping

Here are my new and homemade candles at the end of the night:

homemade candles

It is such a satisfying thought that all this fun and beauty comes from stuff that could have easily ended up straight in the garbage! Now I am going to enjoy those candles without feeling that I have to save on them, – because they are bonus anyway! And some I will give away as gifts. I love to give something that I have made, – no worries that someone else will bring them the same thing, right?!

coffee candle

Here is a picture of our breakfast-candle:

breakfast candle

Fun stuff!!!

Fall Leaves Craft

Can you believe it, – we had RAIN last night!!! And when I went out for my early morning run, the air was so nice and fresh! There was the smell of “after rain”, and everything seemed less dusty. It was really refreshing! The temperatures are still pretty high, but it certainly feels like we made a step in the direction of fall. So, – today seemed a very fitting day for our “fall leaf craft“.

It is a very simple and easy craft, and you only need:

leaves, paper and colored pencils.

First I gave each of the children a bag to collect leaves in. For this craft, the color of the leaf is not so important, but it is best if the leaves are not too dry and crispy, but rather sort of fresh. And it is fun if you can find leaves of different shape and size.

Then, after having a good collection of leaves, we went inside where we got to start the actual craft.

You put a leaf under your sheet of paper (which should be regular relatively thin paper), and you color on top of the paper (with the leaf underneath) with colored pencils. And, look what happens! It is like magic! The shape and pattern of your leaf comes through!!!

We had a good group of children doing this today, and there was complete silence in the room as they all really concentrated on this craft! It also worked very well for different age-groups. (We had kids from age 4 – 10.)

We made large posters, and wrote “Welcome” or rather ברוכים הבאים or “Bruchim Habaim” in Hebrew, with the plan to decorate our doors with them. But you could do all kinds of things with this, – greeting cards, wrapping paper, name-cards for your Thanksgiving table, and much more!

I hope you’ll have fun with it, and that it will encourage us all to enjoy the fall-season and the beauty of the Creation around us!

Pillar of Salt dough…

When would salt dough be a more fitting craft for the Torah Portion than for the week of Parashat Vayeira, when we among other things read about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and of Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt?! Our shabbat table is this week going to be decorated with two very unique pillars of salt!

(Here is the salt dough recipe again for those who like me don’t want to go back to the old post looking for it:

1 part salt, 2 parts flour, 1 part water and a little bit of oil.)

I thought I would share a few salt dough tricks for those less familiar with it.

The way to attach pieces together is by glueing them together with water. Different body parts, like the head for instance, is helped by also adding a tooth pick to help them stay attached also after being baked.

Clothes are made by rolling the dough flat, and then just cutting it to the size you want as you attach it.

Hair is easily made by pressing the dough through a sieve or something like this:

And then you attach it with the water glue, like this:

Ta-da! Meet Lot’s wife x 2!

These are so thick, I think they will bake on low heat all night long. And I guess we don’t even have to paint them, as I imagine this was about the color Lot’s wife turned. Or, what do you think?

My Challah Recipe, and how to shape a six braided Challah.

First of all, – put on some good music, to get you in that Fun Friday Feeling. Then, let’s enjoy Challah-making. (*Challah is a braided Shabbat bread for those who didn’t know.)

In my recipe, we make something called “sponge” first. And for the sponge, you need:

1/2 cup of lukewarm water

3 tsp of instant dry yeast

3/4 cup of flour

Image

This you combine and mix on low speed for 3 minutes, and then let it sit for 20 minutes. In the end it should look somewhat like this:

Image

Now it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients:

5 1/2 cups flour

3 eggs + 1 egg yolk

1/3 cup oil

1/2 cup lukewarm water

1/3 cup honey

3 tsp salt

Image

You add it all to the sponge and start mixing.

Image

Let it mix for 6 minutes on low speed.

Image

And then for 6 minutes on a higher speed.

It is totally possible to make this without a kitchen machine, it’s just a better workout… (*Been there, done that!) I am now blessed with a kitchen machine, and on my Kitchen Aid I use speeds 1 and 2 for this.

When done with the mixing, the dough needs to sit for about an hour, until doubled in size.

Image

Then you start working with the dough (*and this is the point where I do the hafrashat challah). If you want two large six-braided challot, you naturally divide the dough into twelve pieces. (This is what I did today, but very often I make three challot, and I have even made just one from the whole dough too. So, whatever size challah you need!) I make something called oblongs from the pieces, which is basically just to flatten the dough, then fold it in to the middle from each side, and roll it into a little cylinder afterwards. (*If this sounds complicated, just make cylinders whichever way you want to!)

Image

These then sit and rest for another 15-20 minutes before you shape the challot.

Yes, I know, this is a time-consuming process! But you just have to use all those little breaks for other little projects that I am sure you have going on a Friday, and in the end you have gotten all kinds of things done along with the challot!

Now, to the real thing, – the shaping of a six braided challah!

First of all you make your cylinders into longer strands, and then you connect six of them together like this:

Image

Now we need to concentrate… You number them. First, starting from the right, – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. We are only going to work with four at a time. So now, from the four on our right, we lift # 3 and place it “above” the others, like this:

Image

Then, take # 1 and lift it over # 2, so that it lands between # 2 and # 4. Like this:

Image

Then, take # 4 and place it between # 1 and # 2, like this:

Image

And finally, bring # 3 back down to its place, like this:

Image

Puh… How did it go??? Are you ready for the other side? I hope so… Again, we number them 1 – 2 – 3 – 4, from left to right this time.

And we take # 3 and lift it up and place it on the other side:

Image

And we take #1 and place it between # 2 and # 4.

Image

Then we move # 4 to the space between # 2 and # 1.

Image

And we let  # 3 come back to its place as # 3.

Image

And then you go back to the right side, and keep going like this till your get to the end of your strands.

And tada! Look what comes out! A nice six-braided Challah for Shabbat!! 🙂

Image

Do the same with the rest of your dough, and place them on an oven-tray. Cover them and let them sit for about an hour before putting them in a preheated oven of 170 degrees Celsius.

Image

Just before they go in the oven, you brush them with egg-wash made from egg-yolk to make them nice and shiny.

Image

You bake them for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the challot. And you can feel the great smell of “shabbat is coming” filling your kitchen…

Image

MMmmm! There is nothing quite like home made challot!!!

Shabbat Shalom to you all from a great smelling kitchen in Yerushalayim!

Image

*Note, – if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comment section!