Comfort and Joy

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After a long and unusually warm fall, winter has finally arrived. Since my last post, we’ve gotten our first snowfall, which was calming and beautiful. With the snow came a shocking blast of blustery arctic air that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon, having settled  over our part of the world quite comfortably, as if tucked in under the blanket of  gray clouds. This is the time of year when 20 degrees fahrenheit feels bitter and cruel, but I know come January or February I’ll be talking about how I love temps in the 20s. It’s all relative.

For now, though, it’s time to settle in. Go to bed early. Get cozy with a book and a glass of wine by the fire. Spend weekends in pjs with an endless cup of coffee and the paper. Knit. In Sweden, they have a name for this feeling of coziness: Mysig (pronounced MEE-sig). In her blog post “9 Swedish Words that Should be Incorporated into English Pronto, Immediately, Now,” Kate Reutersward describes mysig as “anything that is in anyway cozy, exceptionally pleasant, and comfortable…” and she gives the example of sitting by a crackling fire on a cold night, sipping a warm beverage and nibbling on something sweet. I love this. I love that the Swedes have a specific word for just what I’m talking about here; the very feeling that makes me begin to look forward to winter.

One of my favorite mysig moments on dark December evenings is savoring a comforting dinner (If you know me, you know it’s soup and crusty bread slathered with butter) by the warm glow of candlelight with my family. These beeswax luminaries cast that exact cozy glow I’m talking about. The first time I saw a beeswax luminary I was at a gift shop in a retreat center in Oregon. The sides of that version were decorated with delicate, pressed pansies, which I loved. I bought one as a thank you gift for my mother-in-law, but I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of making one myself. It turns out, it’s not difficult, and they do make great gifts. Here’s how.

 

You Will Need: 9-inch balloons, 2 lbs beeswax, parchment paper, slow cooker*, candy thermometer, scissors, paring knife (optional)

* Don’t use this insert for food after this project; I have a separate, removable insert that I use just for beeswax.

Prepare the Wax and Balloons

  1. Place beeswax into the insert of a slow cooker. Plug in the slow cooker, cover it, and turn it to high to melt the wax. This will take 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. As the wax is heating, slowly fill balloons on the faucet in the kitchen sink, just as you would if you were having a water balloon fight. Use warm water and fill until they are as big as a large softball. Make sure the balloons are plump and taut.
  3. Set a cookie-sheet size piece of parchment paper on the counter beside the slow cooker. Before dipping balloons, turn the slow cooker to low and insert a candy thermometer into the wax to check the temperature. If it is over 160 degrees F, let it sit for 10 minutes before dipping balloons. Check the temperature again to make sure it is between 150 and 160 degrees before starting to dip balloons.

Dip the Balloons

  1. Hold the balloon by the knot at the top and slowly dip it into the wax to the water line. If the wax is not deep enough, turn the balloon on its side slightly to cover it in wax, but again, do not dip above the water line. Lift out of the wax and allow 5–10 seconds to pass before dipping the balloon again, making sure all sides are covered to the water line.
  2. Dip six times, then gently set the balloon on the wax paper to rest for 30 seconds. This creates a flat spot on the bottom of the luminary.
  3. While the first balloon is resting, you may dip a second balloon, following the same procedure outlined in step 1 above.
  4. When you set the second balloon on the parchment paper, pick up the first balloon and dip it another 6 times, following the same procedure in step 1.
  5. Repeat with the second balloon, alternating between the two until you’ve dipped each balloon 20–30 times. Set the balloons on parchment to cool. The goal is to create a luminary that is sturdy enough to stand up to use, yet thin enough to allow light to shine through.

Tip: Wax should stick to the balloon smoothly. If wax is still lumpy, it is too cool. If it is melting the previous layer off, it is too hot. Adjust the temperature accordingly.

Pop the Balloon

  1. After about 10 minutes, when the wax is firm but still warm, hold the balloon over the sink and snip the top of the balloon with a scissors to pop it. Tip the luminary to dump out the water, and then carefully peel the balloon from the inside of the luminary. Trim the top of the luminary with a paring knife if needed.
  2. Set a battery-operated tea light inside and enjoy a bit of handmade mysig!

Note: Always use a battery-operated tea light with this luminary instead of the real thing. Over time, the beeswax will melt and the luminary may stick to the table.

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The beeswax luminary is one of many projects that will appear in my upcoming craft book for teens. Stay tuned for details! Until then, have a warm and cozy holiday season.

 

 

 

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