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We were back in the kitchen this week dying Easter eggs and enjoying a Natural Dyed Eggshighly speculative and interesting conversation about how and why the Easter Bunny brings eggs and hides them in one’s house.  In my childhood household,  the Bunny brought eggs with Him or Her and,  judging by the dye stains in the sink the next morning, used our kitchen to dye them.  He or She  then went around our house hiding them in difficult to find places along with baskets containing more colorful eggs and candy.   Each basket was labeled with the name of a child.  The Bunny seemed to have some general sense of each child’s capacity for hunting and finding based on age.   
 
In other households,  the children took care of dying the eggs ahead of time and stored them in the refrigerator in an egg carton.  Carrots were placed on top of the carton to ensure that the Bunny could find them.  While the children were asleep the Bunny would enter the house by unknown means and hide the eggs around the house.   

Who can understand the ineffable mind of the Easter Bunny?  What is the relationship between the Bunny, who delivers the eggs, and the Chicken, who creates them?  Who cares when you have a pile of chocolate and sugar in front of you after having abstained from both for the past 40 days?

Anyway I digress.  You probably tuned in to learn about how to use natural dyes to make beautiful eggs.  It’s pretty easy.  Start with clean, uncooked white eggs.   Put some pots of water on the stove to boil with natural dyes in them.  Use about one Tbsp spice or about 1 c of fruit or vegetable and 2Tbsp of white vinegar to 4 cups of water.  Make sure the eggs are very clean, then put it in the boiling dye mixture for 15 minutes.  Basically, anything that stains fabric or your fingers will dye eggs.  If you put more of the dye stuff in the water the eggs will be darker. 

Boiling water with beets

Boiling water with beets

Colors
Red or pink:  Beets, cranberries or raspberries
Orange:  Yellow onion skins or paprika
Yellow:  Tumeric
Blue: Blueberries, blackberries,  (We tried grape juice but it made the eggs sticky)
Brown:  coffee, or tea

Special Effects
  
Wrap a few rubber bands around the egg before putting it in the water.  The part where the rubber band is will stay white and you get a geometric design. Quite nice.
   Draw a design on the egg with a wax crayon.  If you have little egg dying kit from the drug store there is likely to be a wax crayon in there.  You can use it to write a name on the egg. 
   Wrap the eggs in onion skins and secure with rubber bands.  Boil it in plain water for a mottled orange effect,  or in with the beet water for a orange/red egg combo. 
     Wrap some interesting dried leaves around the egg and put it in an old nylon stocking.  Put it in any of the dyes.  The leaves will create a really interesting mottled pattern.  This is my favorite method. 

A note about dying eggs with someone who is 20 months old.  
She needs a full body bib; her own set of cold water dyes from Paas; hard boiled eggs; glitter and colorful stickers; and a spoon for stirring and dipping and stirring and dipping and stirring and dipping.

Finally More Information about Easter
The name “Easter” originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe. Similarly, the “Teutonic dawn goddess of fertility [was] known variously as Ostare, Ostara, Ostern, Eostra, Eostre, Eostur, Eastra, Eastur, Austron and Ausos.” (From Larry Boemler “Asherah and Easter,” Biblical Archaeology Review, Vol. 18, Number 3, 1992-May/June)

Please post comments,  I’m particularly interested in hearing your childhood Easter Egg rituals.

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It's hot working making jam

It's hot working making jam

This weekend a couple of teenaged boys, our nephews, stayed overnight while their parents took off for parts unknown.  We had to think of something to entertain them that would at least as interesting as IPods, IPhones, and all things computerized and digital which are in short supply at our house. 

What would you do?  We came up with the brilliant idea of making Strawberry Jam.  Initially they were less than enthusiastic, but they warmed up to the idea after a while.  Especially when they realized there was no way they could beat me at Scrabble.

So we hauled about 8 pints of frozen strawberries out of the freezer. and a bunch of jelly jars and lids up from the basement.  We had put up the strawberries last fall when it was too hot  and we were too busy to deal with them.   Now it is March and although spring is coming, we still have several feet of snow on the ground and it’s still cold out.  A perfect day for heating up the kitchen.

After a couple of false starts, Seth set to work with the food processor and turned the frozen pints into 6 cups of strawberry slush.  Tyler carefully made calcium water and measured 4 tsp into the strawberry slush as it heated up on the stove.   His job was to watch the pot until it boiled and to stir occasionally to prevent scorching. In the meantime, the jars were sterilizing in the slowly boiling water in the canner, and the lids were sterilizing in their own separate little lid pan.

Seth then put together 12 oz of  frozen apple juice concentrate with a 1/4 c of honey and heated that up on the stove.  At this point we had all 4 burners going. When  the apple juice concentrate and honey mixture started boiling Seth went back to his food processor.  This time it was to thoroughly mix the hot apple concentrate and honey mixture with the pectin.  Tyler added 4 tsp  of pectin through the hole in the top of the food processor while Seth pulsed and mixed.  When it was well mixed, Seth added it to the hot strawberry slush and we brought it back to a boil.  At this point the kitchen was hot and steamy. 

We lifted the sterilized jars out of the hot water bath and set up an assembly line.  I filled the jars, Seth put on the sterile lids using the nifty magnetic lid lifter, Tyler screwed them down, and Naomi put them back in the canner to boil for another 10 minutes.  

Tyler and Seth took a break and went off to play with the dog who had been banished from the kitchen for being underfoot and was feeling somewhat neglected.

Finally, when the timer went off to tell us that they were ready, I took the jars out of the canner and set them on a towel to cool.  It only took about 3 minutes for us to hear 8 satisfying pings.  Hurray, all of our jars sealed!

We didn’t eat the jam right away, although I did take advantage of the warm jelly that didn’t get in to the jars.  Very tasty. This morning the parents returned, a little bleary eyed but happy enough and collected their kids, dog and a couple of jars of jam.  Maybe we will do it again next year.

Disclaimer:  This post is not intended to be instructional on how to make jam.  I used the recipe in the box of Pamona’s Universal Pectin.

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Honey Harvest, Part I

Honey Harvest, Part I

Naomi Jackson/September 2010

Super: a small hive box in which bees store honey
Frame: shaped like a picture frame; holds a rectangle of wax-coated plastic
Propolis: bee glue, made of plant resins

Choose a golden fall day, when the breeze is warm
and the sun is high, and the bees
are out gadding in the goldenrod.

Plan carefully, for you must move quickly
to dodge kamikaze warriors
left behind to guard the gold store.

Take two friends; three is better.
Don your armor: white suits with balky zippers,
rubber boots, jungle helmets, leather gloves.

Load your truck with hive tools, frame clamp, nails,
two empty supers with flat lids,
a smoker and a sticky-bristled bee brush.

 Remember to turn off the electric fence.

Fill the smoker with pine needles and paper.
Light the paper, squeeze the bellows, close the lid.
Gather your tools and approach the first hive.

With your hive tool, pry off the outer cover,
then the inner cover, and apply a layer of smoke.
Smoke alarms the nurse bees, who crawl inside.

Loosen a frame of honey from its propolis bonds.
Lift the frame, dripping bees and honey,
and gather round to inspect the stores.

If most of the cells are filled with honey and capped with wax,
brush off the bees and give the frame to the runner.
If not, replace the frame. It belongs to the bees.

The runner, dodging waist-high daisy fleabane and
loose fence wires, runs to the truck, brushes off
the last bees, slips the frame in a super, slams on the lid.

And repeat, through each super, through each hive,
lifting each frame, examining each cell
as warriors pelt your helmet and smoke fills your lungs.

When the last full frame is stored in the truck,
nail the lids on the supers that hold your harvest,
and turn back to say thank you to the bees.

Remember to turn on the electric fence.

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       Dare I say it.  I think it is time to shift away from fireworks as a way to celebrate America’s independence. 

      When fireworks were invented the idea of lighting up the night sky with fire was totally awesome.  Celebrations with lights and noise made sense because prior to that time the nights were usually dark and quiet.    Even in 1950, when I was a girl, nights were usually dark and quiet, and  I loved sitting on the edge of the lake surrounded by the community of friends and family and joining in the chorus of appreciative aaaahhhs and ooooohhs.

      Today, at least where I live in the city, the night is always lit.  Street lights, city lights, parking lot security.  Blinking, twinkling non-stop lights and noise.   

      With the Green Revolution upon us I look forward to the day when the world is a little dimmer, quieter, and cleaner. 

       I love America.  Home of the Brave, Land of the Free.    On July 4th I would love to be able to go out into the street, stand with my neighbors and look up and be awestruck by the beauty of deep, peaceful, starry night.    AAAAAHHH,     OOOOOOOHHH. 

Check out this link for earth hour

http://yourgreenfriend.com/earth-hour-your-commitment-beyond/

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This is for those of you who are concerned about food safety, yet cringe
at the cost of organic produce. It’s research done by the Environmental
Working Group (www.ewg.org) on the chemical load carried by various
fruits & vegetables.

Safest conventionally grown produce (lowest pesticide load)
        Onion, avocado, frozen sweet corn, pineapple, mango, asparagus,
frozen sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli,
tomato, sweet potato, grapefruit, honeydew melon (onions were lowest with
a score of 1, the melon the highest with a score of 30 on a scale of
1-100)

Least safe conventionally grown produce (highest pesticide load)
        peach, apple, sweet bell pepper, celergy, nectarine,
strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, pears
(peaches were the worst with a score of 100; pears the lowest with a
score of 63)

Most of the produce they tested was washed and peeled (no, they didn’t
peel the peas).

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“The days ahead require mastery and clarity
AND strength in numbers. Pay attention to your group bodies.
InterPlayers are subversive, sexy,
wild, bewilderers, catchers of light and dark.
We’re alchemical mystery workers and wannabe’s. We’re life artists
who really make shifts not just in ourselves but in the world.”

By Cynthia Winton Henry  Founder of Interplay

DSCN4299-2

Cynthia writes about the days ahead, and suggests that they may be difficult and challenging.   Sometimes the whole world challenges me; sometimes its only my own small piece of it. Either way,  playing helps.  Playing gives me access to my body’s wisdom.  Which turns out to be a powerful resource for coping, figuring things out, and most importantly changing the world. 

Here is what you need to know.  Everybody who has a body can play.  Do you have an urge to stomp your feet, clap your hands or swing your body when you hear music?  Or maybe your body wants to hold perfectly still and take in the music of the country or the city, or the silence of the quietest night.   That’s playing.   Anyone can do it, anywhere, any time. 

1)  Playing Alone.  (Sometimes it is helpful to listen to some music, but that is entirely optional)  Take a breath.  Take another breath and this time let it out with some sound.  Shake out your body.  Take another breath.  Pay attention to your body,  with a particular focus on what feels good.  Now pay attention again.  Notice the desire to move, and the desire to be still.  Follow that desire, notice what happens next.  What catches your attention now?  The sound of the traffic?  An ant on the sidewalk?  The lines in the palm of your hand?  Pay attention to that.  Now pay attention again.   Continue with this process until it becomes a total way of life. 

2)  Playing with Others.  Again, music is optional.  It also helps if you are playing with others who are paying attention and have decided to play together.  

However, it is possible to play with others even when they aren’t necessarily thinking about playing with you.  Start with taking a breath and shaking out your own body again.  A very small shake is sufficient.  Pay attention again and again.  Now notice the group body.  Pay special attention to the place in yourself where love and good will reside.  Notice the connection between you and others.  Be aware that the connection exists even if you aren’t thinking about it.  Be curious about it.  Are you happy to be in the company of others, nervous, irritated?  Be very curious.  Notice the connection in the coffee shop or bus stop or in line in the grocery store.  Notice your body moving through space without crashing in to another body.   Notice your internal responses to the other people in the space.  Continue to be curious.  Be mostly curious about yourself.  It isn’t necessary to acknowledge the connection out loud, but you might with a nod or a smile.  Your bodies already know all about it.  Breath.  Move.  Pay Attention.  Pay Attention again.

Wanna know more?  Click on the photo above and it will take you to the InterPlay home page www.interplay.org.   There you can find lots and lots of other subversive, sexy, wild bewilderers to play and learn with.  We are out to save the world!

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Friends

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Friends  –  Need I say More??

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