Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Naturally Dyed Eggs

This was my first year to try dyeing eggs with natural materials (except we have dyed red eggs with onion skins and made one attempt with blueberries which resulted in a deep purple color).  I was very pleased with the results I achieved this year.  We used purple (red) cabbage to make blue, beets for pink and turmeric for yellow.  We took eggs which had been dyed yellow in the turmeric and put them in the blue dye for to make green.  I also dyed a few with plants attached to make a print design.  The results were truly lovely!

Here's how to make them:

First hard boil the eggs and include about 1 Tablespoon of vinegar in the water (to remove any residue that might be on the eggs).  Let the eggs cool.

For yellow dye:
Add 3 tablespoons turmeric and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to 3 cups hot water.  Stir well until dissolved, then let cool.

For blue dye:
Chop one small head of purple cabbage (or half of a large head) and simmer in 3 cups of water for 25 - 30 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar while it is cooking.  Remove the cabbage and allow the dye to cool.

For pink dye:
Chop 3 beets into approximately one inch chunks.  Simmer in 3 cups of water for 25 - 30 minutes.  Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar while the beets are cooking.  Remove beets and let the dye cool.

For green eggs:
Dye eggs yellow, then place in the blue dye.

Place eggs in the preferred color of dye and let sit for 10 - 30 minutes depending on what color you desire.  The yellow worked the quickest.  The beets and cabbage dyes took longer to reach the desired color.  Gently stir the eggs in the dye occasionally to ensure even color.  I blotted the eggs with a paper towel after taking them out of the dye.
CAUTION:  These natural dyes will stain things other than the eggs (like your counter top!) so I recommend covering your work space with newspaper or a disposable table cloth.

For plant print designs:
Gather leaves or flowers from your yard.  I just used weeds from my yard.  The longer stems with multiple leaves look nice because you can wrap the stem around the egg.  Place the leaf or stem on the eggs then wrap with a mesh type material.  I used some mesh fabric I had on hand.  Pantyhose would probably work well too.  I secured the mesh with a rubber band.  The main objective is to keep the plant tight against the egg while still allowing the dye to get through the mesh to the rest of the egg.  Mine turned out better than I expected!

I really love the delicate earthy colors!

The blue is my favorite.  I love the color and the little heart designs.
I believe the plant I used is called 'spepherd's purse'.
It has little green heart shaped buds that later bloom out into small white flowers.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Red Eggs for Easter

In the Orthodox Christian tradition we color red eggs for Easter (or Pascha as we usually refer to Easter).  There are various legends surrounding the red eggs.  A few can be found here.  After the midnight Pasha service we each take a red egg (which was first boiled) and tap it against another person's egg while one person gives the Paschal greeting, Christ is Risen! and the other person answers, Indeed He is Risen!  The egg that doesn't crack is then tapped against another person's egg and then another and so forth until there is only one person with an unbroken egg.  That person is considered to have good luck for the rest of the year, good health or long life (it varies according to different traditions).  Of course children love this egg tapping game and look forward to it every year.  It is a fun tradition that all ages enjoy as they proclaim the Risen Christ at midnight and begin the joyous feast!

This year we will color our traditional red eggs using yellow onion skins, but we will also be trying some other natural dyes.  One year I tried blueberries which gave a deep purple color.  This year we will also experiment with turmeric (for yellow), purple cabbage (for blue) and beets (for pink).  I will report back here on our results!

Here are some pics from a previous Pascha and a link to an egg dye recipe I have used in the past.

Brown eggs dyed red with yellow onion skins, then rubbed with olive oil.

My kids tapping their eggs

Friday, April 4, 2014

St. Mary of Egypt

This coming Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent,  we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt.  I really love St. Mary and the story of her very sincere and deep repentance as well as her amazing life of asceticism.  It's no wonder she is commemorated in the Orthodox Church during Great Lent, a time of repentance and spiritual renewal.

Her story has many elements that children find interesting (especially the lion!).  St. Mary lived a very sinful life before her conversion.  Therefore, it can be a somewhat delicate task to tell her story to children in a way that is appropriate for them while at the same time conveying the depths of her sins from which she repented.  I searched online for a children's book or story about the life pf St. Mary of Egypt.  I still haven't found any storybooks about her life for children, but I did run across a re-telling of her life for children posted on her feast day (which is April 1).  It can be found here along with some lovely icons that help tell her story.

I read the story to my children and showed them some of the icons.  They were particularly interested in the lion and her miracle of walking across the Jordan river.  We talked a bit about how sorry she was for her grave sins and why she chose to live a life of extreme asceticism in the desert (as a form a deep and humble repentance, to keep herself from returning to her old ways and to become closer and closer to God).  We also talked a bit about Fr. Zosimas' pride and his sincere humility after meeting St. Mary.

I asked my kids what part of St. Mary's story they found the most interesting.  My daughter said the part where Mary was unable to enter the church on Jerusalem was most interesting to her and my son was most fascinated by the fact that she lived so long alone in the desert.

For our project I decided to have the kids draw a picture depicting Fr. Zosimas and St. Mary with simple figures in the Waldorf style.  We used watercolor pencils (I have a set I have been wanting to try out so I thought this would be a good project for that!).  We used two particular icons (see above) as inspiration for our drawings and I encouraged the children to either depict Fr. Zosimas with the reposed St. Mary (and the lion nearby) or St. Mary coming across the Jordan river to receive communion.  I made a quick drawing as an example for them.  After they completed their drawings I showed them how they could dip a paintbrush in water and go over parts of their painting with the brush to make it appear like a watercolor painting.  I think the effect and the resulting pictures are lovely.

(click on photos to see them larger)

A note on paper:  After a trial run, before I did the project with my children, I decided to use watercolor paper.  I first tried the project with an 80# drawing paper, but with the water it made the paper wrinkle up too much.  The heavier watercolor paper worked much better.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Creating A Garden

Some of the things we planted
My daughter has been begging to plant a garden for weeks now.  She wanted her and her little brother to each plant a garden and see who could grow the best crops - she's very competitive!  We've been pretty busy so I hadn't had time to plan anything out (plus I'm really more of a flower gardener - I'm terrible at growing edible things!).  It's already getting late to plant certain crops so I decided today was the day to just jump in and get it done.  We moved to this house last summer so I did not have a garden area prepared.  There was a certain area with pretty loose, rich dirt (the previous owners had a pig for awhile who worked up the soil a bit) and I planted a few zinnias there last year so I decided that was the spot of least resistance for their little gardens.  We pulled weeds, hoed and the kids used some extra bricks we have to mark the border of their gardens.  I was hoping our chickens wouldn't notice the new area, but as soon as we had a few seeds planted they were there scratching and pecking!  So my husband came to the rescue and built a quick fence.  Now to see if anything will actually grow there!  It's not the fanciest or prettiest garden ever, but my kids are proud of creating their own little garden space.  Do your kids like to grow things?  Happy gardening everyone!

Our quick fencing job!

Our handsome rooster, Rocky