General

Pablo Garcia – A Brief History of Drawing Machines, Since 1425

Although I haven’t watched the entire talk as it’s quite long, I found this to be very interesting which allowed me new insight to the concept of drawing machine.

Having employed this idea in some of my work, and still considering exploring drawing machines further, I found this video to allow me to analyze the concept while also questioning why I am so interested in them in the first place. What is so attractive about them? Why am I so intrigued by something that produces something else?

http://video.mit.edu/embed/26876/

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Making Scented Candles

Candle wax is a fascinating substance. I used to spend hours playing with a lit candle, dipping my finger into the hot wax, feeling it cool and then peel it off. On the assumption that candle wax would be a fun and interesting material to manipulate, I had done a couple of candles way back when I was much younger.

Lately my interest in candles has been rekindled (pun intended), mostly because of this blog. For the purpose of this post I decided to make a scented candle. The process was as follows.

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Things needed:

a clean empty jar,

some candles,

essential oil (your preferred scent),

a toothpick,

a piece of string.

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Method

Tie a piece of string to a toothpick and let it rest on top of the jar. Make sure that it touches the bottom from the other side.

Fill a pot with water and heat. Place the candle wax inside another pot, and place inside the pot of water. Heat until all candle wax has melted. Add essential oil and stir.

Pour the melted wax into the jar. Once the wax had set and started to cool, I sprinkled some beads on it. Allow to cool entirely, and then trim the wick. Use the lid to close the candle when not in use.

Always remember to be extra careful when working with candle wax. It is an extremely flammable substance, and it should never be left melting unattended.

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The shoemaker – beautifully crafted shoes made by my late grandfather

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My grandpa Joseph Scerri working in his roof garden…I love the 60s-style orange shoes which is lying on the floor..

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One of my fondest memories from my childhood is the time I used to spend with my grandpa in his workshop. I¬†couldn’t¬†wait to leave my mum`s house to escape her obsession of playing Barbara Streisand‚Äôs songs all day long, and go to my grandparents, especially during the holidays. Between the smell of my grandma`s baking and the scent of wood, glue, leather and clay, this was a perfect playground, compared to my mum`s boring routine. I used to spend hours ¬†trying to make small furniture for my doll house with the help of my grandpa,¬†and sculpting small statues with his clay casts. I learned so much from him and I am sure that my love for practical work and maybe also drawing evolved from these playful experiences. He used to let me paint his workshop door in all sorts of colours; can you image leaving a paint job to a seven year old, given their colourful taste? Sometimes pink, sometimes orange and maybe with some flowers and suns on it as decoration :). ¬†As long as I was enjoying myself and learning something he¬†did¬†not complain. I used to come up with something new every day; sometimes I wanted a bed for my doll, a handmade present for a friend or a wooden frame for one of my drawings. I used to drive him crazy, but he was so patient. He used to ask me “What`s new today Ruti? What are you going to come up with today?” all with a suspicious sweet smile.

Losing him when I was nine years old was one of the most painful experiences in my life, however all the experiences and discoveries continued to grow with me. He did not leave just beautiful memories behind him but he also left a lot of beautiful shoes ūüôā

My grandfather was a shoemaker. He used to make and fix all kinds of shoes. He was one of the few shoemakers left in the Cottonera / The Three Cities. Actually there was a time when he was the only shoemaker in Birgu. Although he made some shoes for me as well, I was not lucky enough to have him alive when I was growing up, you can imagine how many shoes I would ask him to make for me. My mum on the other hand was an extremely lucky girl. He used to make her a pair of shoes for every new outfit, including that of her wedding. I am sure that this is a dream come true for most women. Now I am the new owner of all these shoes and I also wear them for special occasions. Apart from shoes, he used to make leather belts, jackets, bags and other accessories. It is a pity that trades like this are becoming very rare. I am very grateful that my grandpa had shared all this talent with us. He was a person who was gifted but  humble at the same time, given that his trade, although requiring skill, patience and creativity, was just a common job that was already dying at the time.

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An interesting detail of one of the shoes…I still wear this one..it is one of my favourites

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Some of my grandpa`s Sketches and scribblings

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My mum`s wedding shoes also made by my grandpa

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last moodboard

Different photos of my mum during the 70s wearing my grandpa`s shoes..she looks so proud:)

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A beautiful leather camera bag made by him in the early 70s

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I couldn’t believe my eyes when I discovered these. One of my greatest treasures..my first shoes made by my own grandpa. Super cute.

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my grandpa when he was 20 years old

A Very Special Treat

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I love this time of the year, and not just for the weather, the picnics, and the overall happier mood from everyone around me. One of the things I always look forward to are the fresh desserts and¬†fruit¬†that there are around this time. I love to have fresh fruit with dessert, probably because it’s the ultimate way to make myself not feel guilty for having fattening food.

Having bought an abundance of strawberries, this obviously called for some creative preparation. I was always fond of mixing them with fresh cream, blending them into an ice cream or eating them with pancakes. This year I wanted to try something new. As I have just bought a new waffle maker I thought I should give it a try and make waffles with strawberries.

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Ingredients:

2 cups plain flour

1 cup chocolate chips

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 2/3 cups milk

1/3 cup unsalted butter melted

2 eggs beaten

Method:

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Melt butter and leave to cool.

Add milk and butter to the dry mixture.

Add eggs.

Pour into the waffle iron, and cook until firm.

These glorious treats ended up being so delicious that I could not resist not having an extra portion. They can be served with fresh strawberries drizzled with maple syrup, honey, or even fresh cream to make it even more special!

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Easter Sweets and Gifts

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Easter eggs from Belgium…yummy:)

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A really cute sheep soft toy from my sister in law. I named her Doris:)

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A present from my mum. Easter candles. I love the packaging:)

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Lindor Stracciatella Chocolate. Inspired by the classic Italian ice cream recipe. Super delicious.
http://www.lindt.com.au/swf/eng/products/lindor/lindor-gift-boxes/lindor-stracciatella

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A present for myself. Wooden wall hook.

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another present for myself:) NEW LOOK wedge heels

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Figolli Easter traditional sweets

Today we are sharing a well-known traditional Maltese sweet, perhaps a new discovery for our followers from oversees. One of my fondest memories when it comes to Easter is ‚Äúhelping‚ÄĚ my grandma Bice making the Easter Figolli. I will never forget the table covered in flour amongst other ingredients. I used to love that mess and the smell of almonds and dough baking in the oven. Heaven:)

Later she used to place on the table an impressive number of these almond cakes in a variety of forms and shapes (most of the time symbolic shapes) and cover them in chocolate or royal icing. Obviously being a chocoholic  I used to have mine in chocolate:) As a finishing touch she would decorate the Figolli with tiny edible silver balls and an Easter egg in the middle.

This year I have tried to go back in time by making the Figolli with my mum and my sister in law Maria. I couldn’t resist trying a piece with a cup of coffee and it tastes delicious, maybe not the same as my grandma`s but it’s close enough. This time we experimented a little bit with the decoration, but we have tried to keep it traditional as much as we can. Up to a few years ago in Malta, children (including me) used to take their Figolla with them to the procession of the resurrection Christ on Easter Sunday and when the statue was passing by, they would start shouting with the Figolla held up in their hands, “Bless it for me!”. Sadly this sort of enthusiasm for simple rituals such as this is a rarity nowadays, however it is still a sweet and fond memory of mine.

We hope that you will enjoy and try our recipe so you can share it with your families and loved ones, and you have a peaceful and happy Easter.

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EASTER FIGOLLI RECIPE

Pastry

800g plain flour

400g butter, cut into pieces

350g  sugar

4 eggs

1 lemon/orange (grated zest)

dark, milk or white chocolate  (you can decorate your Figolli in the traditional way, with Royal Icing)

Filling 

600g pure ground almonds

2 drops of almond essence and vanilla essence

600g icing sugar (sifted)

Grated zest of one lemon

4 egg whites

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips.

Add the Sugar and the lemon/orange rind and mix.

Mix in the egg yolk and gather the ingredients into a dough.

Knead the pastry and cover the pastry in cling film and leave it in a coll place for 30 to 40 minutes.

In the meantime mix together the ground almonds, essence, sugar and lemon rind in a bowl. Add the egg whites and mix well.

Roll out the pastry over a floured surface and cut  the pastry into shapes (using figolli cutters)

You will need to pastry shapes for each figolla. Place  3/4 tablespoons of almond mixture on 1 pastry shape . Moisten the edges of the pastry with a little water water and then top with another pastry shape.

Press down to seal the edges together well.bake in a moderate and to slightly hot oven for 35 minutes (until the figolli are golden)

Brush the melted chocolate over the cooled figolli (2 coatings) Decorate with easter eggs, sweets, vermicelli, etc…

Have fun and and be creative when you decorate your Figolli:)

Other related recipes:

http://www.raycalleja.com/gprec06/gp06mar26.html

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BODY DIY: Benefits of the lavender plant

‚ÄúLavender is native to the mountainous zones of the Mediterranean where it grows in sunny, stony habitats. Today, it flourishes throughout southern Europe, Australia, and the United States. The oil in lavender’s small, blue violet flowers gives the herb its fragrant scent. The flowers are arranged in spirals of 6 – 10 blossoms, forming interrupted spikes above the foliage. The name lavender comes from the Latin root¬†lavare, which means “to wash.” Lavender may have earned this name because it was frequently used in baths to help purify the body and spirit. However, this herb has also been used as a remedy for a range of ailments from insomnia and anxiety to depression and fatigue. Research has confirmed that lavender produces slight calming, soothing, and sedative effects when its scent is inhaled.‚ÄĚ

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/lavender-000260.htm

I have been using lavender for the past fifteen years now; initially I used to burn its pure essential oil in a burner (diluted with water).  The relaxing and fresh smell helped to relax me and make me sleep easier. Unfortunately I have been using this ritual for so long that my sense of smell became immune to these benefits and it did not affect me anymore; now I still use lavender in a variety of different ways. I use it to moisturise my skin; by mixing it with sweet almond oil and frankincense or any other preferred essential oil. I also apply it on any blemishes and small cuts; since it  has regenerative properties, and it is an anti-infection, analgesic and anti-flamatory substance.   I also add dried lavender to camomile and drink it before I go to sleep; actually this is one of my favourite daily habits. Lavender is so versatile and it has so many properties that one can also use it for cooking (sweet and also savoury).

Here I have some lavender recipes, just for your mind, body and soul:)

Recipes: 

Lavender  and camomile bedtime drink:

Add dried lavender (1 teaspoon of dried lavender flowers in a tea strainer) and a camomile tea bag into a cup of boiling water. Drink it before you go to sleep, you will sleep like a baby:)

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dried lavender. It can be purchased from http://www.suma.coop

Body massage oil:

Mix 4 drops of lavender pure essential oil, 2/3 drops of frankincense essential oil and sweet almond oil as base oil.  Massage this mixture all over your body in the morning after showering or bathing. You will feel and smell good all day long:)

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dried lavender. It can be purchased from http://www.suma.coop

Bath oil: 

  Add 6-8 drops of  Lavender essential oil after running  water, stay in it for a couple of minutes while listening to relaxing music. Great for aching muscles, relaxation and stress relief.

Burning lavender pure essential oil:

Add 2-4 drops of lavender with water in a burner. Light a tea light and place it underneath the burner to heat the water and oil so they evaporate and fill your room with a fresh and comforting pleasant smell.

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dried lavender. It can be purchased from http://www.suma.coop
burner from the body shop http://www.thebodyshop.co.uk/

http://www.afternoontea.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=830&Itemid=1#.UTULdzCkq5I

Granny`s Lavender Shortbread

300g flour

50g cornflour

50g caster sugar

50g icing sugar

250g unsalted cold butter, cubed

25g dried lavender

1. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until you have a crumbly, almost pastry consistency.

2. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper or a baking mat and place the mixture on top.

3. Cover the dough with greaseproof paper and roll it out until it`s about 4mm thick and bake for 15 minutes at 165C.

4. Using a shape cutter cut out the shape 5 minutes after removing it from the oven.

5. Sprinkle  a light coating of caster sugar on top.

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Lemon and Lavender Sugar Biscuits

(makes about 30 biscuits)

200g caster sugar

2 tbsp dried lavender, plus extra to serve

2 tbsp lemon zest

245g plain (all purpose) flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

180g butter, chopped

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 egg yolk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

icing sugar, to serve

1. Put sugar in lavender in a bowl. Rub the mixture together with your hands to bruise the lavender petals. Set aside for 20 minutes to infuse. Add the lemon zest to the bowl and mix.

2. In a food processor or blender, add the flour, baking powder and salt and pulse to combine. Add the sugar mixture and pulse again. Add the cubes of butter and pulse until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Transfer to large bowl.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, egg yolk and vanilla extract. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until ingredients come together to form a dough. Roll dough into a cylinder and cover tightly with plastic wrap ensuring dough is completely sealed. Chill in the fridge for two hours.

4. Preheat oven to 175¬į C (345¬įF). Line two baking trays with baking paper.

5. Remove dough from the fridge and discard plastic wrap. Allow to sit for five minutes to soften slightly and make it easier to roll out. Dust the work surface with a bit of flour and using rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circular shape, about 5mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes and carefully transfer to the baking tray ensuring a little space is left between each.

6. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cookies  are slightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Dust with icing sugar and scatter a few dried lavender petals onto each before serving.

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Other related links: 

http://www.allthingslavender.com/

My Eight Legged Love

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my dog and how much I pamper her. What most people don’t know is that sometimes twice the legs is just as lovable, and hence my undying love for tarantulas.

Really and truly I have a deep fascination with a lot of arthropods, including phasmids as well. Phasmids are a family of insects which can grow quite large. More commonly they are called stick insects. However arachnids are my favourites, not only because they can have amazing colouration and interesting habits, but also because one can learn so much from them.

I get a lot of weird looks about my tarantulas, but I believe it is only because there are a lot of misconceptions about the creatures. For example, while ALL tarantulas are poisonous, they are not dangerous to humans and a bite is not strong enough to kill anyone. In fact, no one has ever died from a tarantula bite. This does not mean that you won’t have to handle a couple of hours of pain though. The fact that they are not deadly, unlike how many people perceive them, is probably one of the main reasons why they became so popular in the exotic pet trade.

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Tarantulas are divided into two sections, old world and new world. Old being from Asia, Australia and Africa, while new being from the South America. The old world ones have a more potent bite, however those from the new world can kick the so called urticating hair on their abdomen, causing itching. There is also another division, terrestrial tarantulas, those who are ground dwelling, and arboreal, those who live in trees.

They are often very hairy, which in my opinion makes them look really cute. They are able to spin webs like the common spiders, however for completely different purposes. While the spider makes it to trap its food, a tarantula makes its web to cover her borrow, or to produce hammock like structures to rest on. Another major difference is that while a spider’s average lifespan is two years, a tarantula can live up to 25 years.

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There are several reasons why tarantulas make perfect pets. First of all they do not need a large amount of space, they do not make any sound, maintenance is minimal, and they don’t smell. This makes them perfect for apartment living, especially for anyone who doesn’t have the time to go for long walks, or hates cleaning after their pet. They don’t need you to play with them, and they won’t require company. They won’t even raise you electricity bill as they do not need specific lighting, just a simple low wattage heat mat. And as an extra bonus, if you need to go on holiday you don’t need to worry about their feeding, as they can fast for months without any effect on their health.

Even though a lot of people are terrified of spiders, I do know of arachnophobes whose heart was stolen by a tarantula.

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Bone Shaped Biscuits

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When I saw this sweet little bone shaped cookie cutter set I immediately knew I had to have it. I could imagine how good the different dog cookie recipes would look. It was an impulse e-bay buy, and as quickly as I bought the set, I also quickly forgot about it. That is until I received them in the mail.

I decided to make this particular recipe, because it is quick to make and does not require a lot of preparation. Lately I am being really lazy to wash the dishes, so the amount of preparation actually makes a difference for me.

This particular recipe makes use of carob powder, which can be found in every health food section. I like to use carob powder because, first of all it is safe for dogs, and it is also a good replacement for the chocolate flavour which they (and me) adore so much. This recipe does not include anything which is fattening such as butter, as I do not like to introduce such ingredients to my dogs diet. The reason why I always use whole wheat for dogs is that its much easier for them to digest, while also being the healthier option.

Ingredients (Makes 20)

1 egg lightly beaten

1 tablespoon carob powder

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup milk

1 cup whole wheat flour

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix dry ingredients together. Make a well in the centre. Add egg and milk and mix well. Knead well into a ball. On a heavy floured surface roll open and cut with the cutter. Place on a baking tray lined with baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.

And that’s it. Now wait for them to cool and then give one to your dog, who has definitely been lurking in the kitchen for the last 15 minutes.

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