Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Beeswax Candles

     I just finished my last scheduled candle class for this year last Tuesday evening.   We've been selling a lot more beeswax candles than years past so I spent most of my time at work this past week making candles.  Once someone has tried a real beeswax candle, it's hard for them to ever go back to paraffin candles.  I've done votives, tea lights, dipped tapers, all sorts of poured candles, and even some hand dipped 1/2 inch diameter tapers for birthday candles. Our newly setup Christmas tree also got me in the mood to do some beeswax ornaments.  I was even able to persuade Linda to let me put some of them on our tree.
Rustic Fern Piller

Hand dipped beeswax tapers

Beeswax ornaments


Tea lights

     The bee store doesn't make much money doing the candles, but it comes at a slow time of year.  Its good to stay busy at this time of year and anything that brings in a little revenue is nice. In past years, I've used the extra candles from the classes to stock the bee store with candles.  This year, the students have purchased almost all of the candles we have made in class. Consequently, I've had to spend more time at work pouring candles.  I don't know how many candles I can sell at the store, but I know I can't  sell them if I haven't made them.  I usually pass on to the customers a favorite quote from Jonathan Swift; the one where he refers to honey and beeswax as the gifts of  "sweetness and light".

    I have to admit that I really enjoy making candles and playing with the beeswax.  Our primary source of beeswax is cappings that we purchase from some local Ukrainian commercial beekeepers.  I have a cappings melter that does a pretty good job rendering the beeswax. Last year we rendered over three hundred pounds of beeswax.  I say we, but really my minion Quentin did most of the work rendering the wax.  I personally have twelve beehives and I only got about three pounds of beeswax from my own hives. My preferred way to render beeswax is to use a solar wax melter. Cappings wax done in a solar wax melter turns out a light cream color as opposed to the yellow wax we get from the water jacket cappings melter.  The big problem with that is we only have about six weeks during the year when it is sunny enough and warm enough for my solar wax melter to work.  Also we have more time to fool with rendering beeswax in November and December.  Hence most of our beeswax is done with the water jacket cappings melter.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

French Christmas Carols

    I've been working on learning French for the past year or so.  This is partly to atone for the only D grade I ever received in my life which was in first year French in the eighth grade. The reason for my poor grades in French are pretty obvious to me now. At the time I had little or no understanding of English grammar and I had very poor study habits.  I was smart, a good reader, and was able to get by just fine in most classes without putting in much effort. Foreign languages on the other hand, were not like most other classes. They require diligent study and consistent effort. I'm sure my high school French teacher would have never believed that I would ever learn any foreign language, let alone two. I'm sure she also would never have picked me as a likely candidate to become a professional linguist. So here I am with a moderate fluency in Italian and Russian, along with a smattering of German and French.

     Last week, as part of my continuing efforts to learn French, I decided to learn some Christmas carols in French. Songs can really stick in our brains. I can still remember a children's song from first year French class, "Sul La Pont d'Avignon".  If a "D" student can still remember a French children's song after 40 years that shows what a powerful memory tool music can be.  I picked three carols to learn this month,  "Angels We Have Heard on High "(Les Anges Dans Nos Campagnes), "Oh Christmas Tree" (Mon Beau Sapin), and one that we don't appear to sing in English called "Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant".  At least I haven't found an English version of that carol yet.  I found a number of helpful YouTube videos that included the lyrics of each carol.  I just looked up Christmas carols in French and found lots to chose from.

     "Angels We Have Heard on High" is one of my favorite Christmas carols and happens to be of French origin.  I didn't have to look very hard to find the French lyrics as they are available on the LDS.org website.  I simply looked up the hymn and selected French as the language option. I love the bass line in the Chorus of this song.  The church website didn't give me any help with the French pronunciation, but that was easy enough to find that on YouTube. 

     I remember having heard "Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant" as an instrumental but I don't recall having heard it sung before I started this little project. I don't know what it was titled in English. I think I may even have it on a Celtic Christmas CD.  It is really quite a lovely carol, especially when sung by children.  Maybe I can teach the chorus to some of my grand children who will be visiting us over the Christmas holiday. There is a line in the chorus that translates to "Play the oboe, resonate the bagpipes". The Scots and Irish apparently don't have a monopoly on bagpipes.  Bagpipes were a traditional celtic instrument.  They survive in some form in the folk music of both France and Italy and probably other countries as well.  In parts of northern Italy it was traditional to have shepherds come into town to play music around Christmas. Along with other instruments, they played some kind of bagpipe. A French country bagpipe is called a musette.

     Oh Christmas Tree is an old German carol but I picked it because it seemed pretty easy to learn. The phrase "Mon Beau Sapin" is repeated six times.  Once you have the title of the song down you are almost halfway to having the whole carol memorized.

    I really love Christmas carols in any language. I like to get an early start on singing and listening to Christmas music.  One of the many reasons I enjoy singing in our ward choir is the opportunity to start singing Christmas music in October.  While she doesn't care for my Klezmer Christmas CD, Linda and I both agree on the subject of early Christmas music. My favorite Christmas CDs at present are "Oy to the World" by the Klezmonauts,  "Irish and Celtic Christmas Music", and the Gothard Sisters Christmas CD.

     The Gothard Sisters are from Edmonds, Washington. They combine celtic music with Irish dance. They first started performing as a means to earn the money to travel to an Irish dance competition in Ireland.  They did so well that they forgot about the dance competition. One sister plays the guitar while two of them play fiddle.  Several of them play the Irish drum as well and all three of them do Irish dance. One of the things I like about them is the fact that although their voices are very good, they don't sound professional.  They don't clutter up a beautiful song with all of the "performance" aspects. Its generally about singing the songs and not about showing off their voices. I guess they get the showing off out of their systems when it comes to dancing.  We have tickets to attend one of their Christmas concerts this coming Thursday in Lynden, Washington.  Our schedule didn't work for any of the closer concert locations. We're looking forward to taking some of the Veatch kids with us. It should be fun.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree!

    We put up our Christmas tree earlier this week. Its a bit on the small side for my taste but it is a very pretty tree.  Linda and I have a running disagreement on the best size for a Christmas tree. She likes them smaller, while I like them larger.  I cut down one of the Dwarf Alberta Spruces that Linda planted some years back. She originally planted them with the idea that they could be used for Christmas trees.  Being dwarf trees, they have grown slowly and are just now approaching six feet in height. They are also full to a fault. While I would have liked a bigger tree, it was very nice to cut one down in the back yard. It was also very convenient.
Our newly installed Christmas tree, yet undecorated.

      Linda took charge of decorating the Christmas tree.  Of course it turned out very cute.  I thought her enthusiasm for decorating the tree was even cuter. I realize that some of our Christmas traditions have pagan origins. However, we can chose to have as much Christ in our Christmas as we want. We can focus on either material things or the true meaning of the celebration. In that vein Linda made some new ornaments for our tree that display 12 names for Christ. She found a font she liked and printed them out on the computer. Then she used some wide mouth canning rings, painted white, which she used to frame them. They turned out very nice. I didn't think to ask if she thought it up by herself or if she found the idea on Pinterest or in Martha Stewart Living. Personally, I think recognizing someone else's good idea is almost as good as having one on your own. Now for a little photographic tour of our Christmas tree.

One of Linda's new ornaments

A tatted ornament made by Grandma Cozy

A tatted angel made by Grandma Cozy

An ornament Beth made at a Relief Society activity

An ornament made by a good friend from an old Christmas card

Another one of Linda's new ornaments
Linda got this at the Relief Society Christmas party

I think we've had this star for a long time.
     Our Christmas tree has a general color scheme of green white and gold. However, it still has a lot of handmade ornaments, many of which came from family and friends. I've persuaded Linda to let me add some beeswax ornaments, natural color of course so they don't violate the color scheme.  The thing I like best about our little tree is that it helps remind us what are supposed to be celebrating, the birth of the Savior.

Our Christmas tree fully decorated

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


   We had a lovely Thanksgiving.  It was a wonderfully happy chaos with only half of our grandkids in attendance.  One of the things I am most grateful for is my family. How could I not love a holiday which provides quality time with loved ones and a good excuse to enjoy some of our favorite foods.

     I think we showed a little restraint this year in that we only had seven pies this year. I made one heavenly hazelnut pie, three pumpkin pies, and a cherry pie. My daughter, Rachel, made a blender lemon pie and a banana creme pie.  I also made fish eye pudding (tapioca) and Linda bought some Costco pumpkin rolls.  The guest of honor was a pretty good sized turkey, accompanied by the usual mashed potatoes and turkey gravy. We had bought a ham that we didn't use. We also had a lovely fruit salad, sweet potatoes, olives, Beth's dinner rolls, a quinoa dish, Grandma Cozy's scalloped corn, and a number of other tasty dishes. The amazing thing was how much food we had left over at the end.  With a head count of 25 and only one turkey, I didn't expect there would be much turkey left at the end of the day.   Yet somehow I made two gallons of turkey and noodles from the carcass and I am still eating leftover turkey a week later.
Lucy Tunnell helping herself to the fruit salad

Madelynn Veatch and Cassy Parrot

Luna Wessel and Abby Veatch
       Mike Veatch brought his electronic drum set.  After dinner we enjoyed a nice little jam session with Mike on drums, Chet Arnett on guitar, and Madelynn on trumpet.  I was really amazed at how good Madelynn sounds on her trumpet. She sounds like she had been playing it for a lot longer than just a year and some change.  After the big boys were through playing with the drums some of the younger kids gave them a try. John Tunnell was really rocking out. I was so grateful the drums were electronic with a volume control.