Post #502: Craft candles without a tarp

I like to burn beeswax candles during the holiday season,.  I suppose that’s because the scent reminds me of my grandparents’ church.

Candle-making is also a nice craft to do with your kids.   The process is satisfying, it requires parental supervision, and the results are “consumables”.  You aren’t stuck with them, because the whole point of making a candle is to burn it.

That said, most instructions for making traditional candles with your kids omit the most important part:  The tarp.  That is, the tarp you should lay down on your kitchen floor before you start.  Because if you don’t, you get little tiny drips and flecks of wax everywhere, and then you can skate across your kitchen floor for the next week until that wears off.  After an episode or two of that, I learned that traditional candle-making, using liquid wax, is for the garage, not the house.

But there is a way to craft candles that involves no mess:  Beeswax sheets.  My kids made the candles above (years ago).  The process could not be easier.  Take a sheet of colored beexwax and wrap it tightly around a wick.  Strange as it may seem, those burn just like a regular candle.  The candles pictured above are burning now, as I am writing this.

It’s certainly not the cheapest way to make a beeswax candle.  If you’re going to make a lot of beeswax candles, it’s far less expensive to buy beeswax in bulk and either cast or dip the candles using melted wax.  Currently, bulk beeswax seems to be going for $7 to $8 per pound.  Kits with colored beeswax sheets and wick included seem to run about three times that much, per pound.

But it is by far the easiest.  Cut up the sheets as you desire, warm them in your hands until they are pliable, and carefully roll up the wick in the wax sheet.  That’s it.  When you are done rolling up the sheet, the candle is ready to burn.

What’s not to like?  It’s non-denominational, because as far as I can tell there is no religion that’s against using candles.  Little kids can do it.  Bigger kids can get creative when they do it.  And it involves bright colors and fire, both of which are child magnets.  If you run out of ideas about what to do with your kids this holiday season, consider making candles.

Post #501: Hebrews 13:8

In memory of my dad, who I’m sure would appreciate the joke, because I stole it from him.





3:  Hebrews 13:8.

If it’s not funny, re-read it and place more emphasis on the first two words.


5:  Warning:  Recorder got bored and left early

2019-12-16 Town Council Work Session audio file.mp3




Post #499: Why I don’t recycle my Christmas tree.

It’s much more useful as a fire starter.

Above is the last little fragment of last year’s Christmas tree, just to show you how well and how quickly it burns.  Looks green, burns like gasoline.

I have a wood stove, and I’ve never run across a commercial fire starter that works as well as a dry Christmas tree.  Catches in an instant, burns fast and burns hot.  So don’t recycle my Christmas tree.  I keep it, cut it up, and use it in my wood stove in place of commercial fire starters.

The only downside is that dry Christmas tree pieces are so flammable that I don’t dare keep them in the house.  Commercial fire starters are much safer than a dry Christmas tree.

This time of year you’ll see safety reminders about the hazard of Christmas tree fires.  And now you know somebody who uses his Christmas tree in place of commercial fire starters.  That’s how well they burn.

Post #497: Lions Club Fund Raisers

This is the second of a series of articles on things unrelated to the Town of Vienna

This article is about another holiday tradition in my household.

Long-time residents of Vienna expect to see the Vienna Lions Club selling Christmas trees this time of year.  They set up in the parking lot of the former Safeway, next to where the Southern States used to be.  (Translation:  Walgreens).  I’m a late-in-the-season tree buyer, so sometimes I can get a tree there, and sometimes — as is the case this year — they’re sold out before I even think about buying a tree.

But my favorite Lions holiday tradition comes via the Fairfax Lions Club.  Around this time of the year, every year, they have an old-fashioned citrus sale.  By that I mean, they bring up a truckload of citrus from Florida and sell cartons of fruit right off the truck.  This one takes place where the Hechinger’s used to be, at Fairfax Circle.  (Translation:  Home Depot).  Theirs just ended, but they’ll have another on in the spring.  If you have an interest, you can sign up for an email reminder on their website, or you can attend a similar sale by the Falls Church/Annandale Lions on Saturday, December 21.

Putting aside that the purchase of citrus at these sales helps a worthy charity, I like the Fairfax Lions Club citrus sale for five reasons.

One, it’s a good deal on good fruit.  I paid more-or-less the same price for the two grapefruit pictured above.  The big one on the left is from the Lions, and weighs in at 17 ounces.  The smaller one on the right is from Giant Food, at just over 12 ounces.   So it’s analogous to buying your produce at the farmers’ market.  You get fresher, better produce, at a reasonable price, if you cut out the standard food distribution channels.

Two, it’s genuinely seasonal.  The timing of the sale reflects the timing of the peak citrus harvest.  In an era where there is no longer any seasonality to what’s available in the grocery store, that’s pleasantly quaint and reality-based.  You have a limited opportunity to buy fresh American citrus because … well, in fact, that’s when it ripens.  And that’s a throwback in an era when you’d be hard-pressed to name any item in the grocery store produce section that you cannot buy, in some form, 24/7/365.

Three, it doesn’t change, which I guess is the essence of a tradition.  Reliably, it’s two or three guys, selling boxes of fruit, off a truck.  No gimmicks, no apps, no ads, no glitz, no upsell.  Cash and carry.

Four, it’s part of a long-standing, area-wide tradition of wintertime citrus sales by charitable organizations.  In our area, charity citrus sales are so common this time of year that if you miss one, you’ve probably got another opportunity coming up.  So, e.g., the Falls Church/Annandale Lions are holding one on Saturday, December 21.  So you’ve missed the Fairfax Lions sale, but you could still pick up a box at the Falls Church/Annandale Lions sale.

Finally, this may soon be a thing of the past.  Ultimately, charity citrus sales are driven by the productivity of the Florida citrus industry.  But Florida citrus groves are being destroyed by “citrus greening”, a plant disease that only showed up in the US in 2005.

In fact, I was surprised to see the Lions selling this year at a reasonable price.  I buy red grapefruit from the Lions.  Here’s the recent trend in Florida red grapefruit harvest, using data as published by the USDA.  To me, that chart says, better get it while you can.  So for now, I’m thankful that I can continue this tradition for one more year.