April 5th, 2012

Naturally-Dyed Easter/Eostre Eggs

Eggs colored with turmeric, beet juice, and blueberries

Turmeric, beet juice, and blueberries give eggs a soft color and beautiful watercolor texture.

Decorating eggs was always one of my favorite Easter traditions as a kid.  I was never a huge fan of Easter baskets because they invariably had a huge chocolate bunny and lots of other chocolate-covered or filled concoctions, those mediocre colored marshmallow eggs, and a couple marshmallow Peeps.  The only part I liked were the Peeps.  In later years, a Reese’s egg was added which I liked because they have more peanut butter than chocolate.

But the egg decorating, oh that was fun.  What with those tricksey plastic wrappers, the paper stands that never stayed together, the vinegar-scented dyes, and don’t get me started on the flimsy wire dippers with hard-boiled eggs precariously balanced on top.  Egg decorating was serious business! I enjoyed it, but even as a kid my little hippie-brain I wondered about natural dyes, created from food and plant materials.  I never got to try it until last year, however.

Eggs blown out and dyed with onion skins

Onion skins give eggs a beautiful brown marbling

I never got around to posting about it, but those colored eggs up there? The Sprout and I made them last year.  This year we experimented with wrapping the egg shells (I blew out the eggs beforehand) in onion skins, then boiling them for 15 minutes.  It created that lovely marbling.  I have to say, I am completely enamored of these earthy eggs.

Why dye/color eggs with food rather than coloring kits or food coloring? Well one reason is to avoid the chemicals.  This appeals to me because I try to keep as few chemicals as possible in our home.  Another reason, and my main attraction is to do things as they’ve been done for hundreds of years.  Why use chemicals when you don’t have to? I like to create the things I use, and egg decorating is no exception! I guess you could say I just find it fun! :wink:

Closer shot of onion skin-dyed eggs

The instructions for dying eggs with onion skins can be found over at Instructables, along with instructions for other naturally-dyed eggs.  Boulder Locavore also has a great tutorial on naturally-dying eggs.  Wikihow taught me how to blow out eggs.

Now tell me: have you already decorated your Easter eggs this year? If not, are you going to, and how do you plan to do it?

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January 8th, 2012

I think I might have a problem.

Happy new year, folks! I hope your holidays were good and 2012 has started off well for you.  As usual, I have some lingering things from Christmas with which I need to deal, because I never seem to get things in order in time.  I haven’t even thought much about my goals for this year yet! I can say though that one of them is one I had last year too: to clean out some of my collections of things I don’t need.

I don’t actively collect much; I used to collect Hello Kitty goods and vintage lingerie (I have a penchant for antique things, ok?), but in the last few years, I find my money being drawn toward more necessary things than my personal tastes, so the only collections gathering in my house are things that sort of gather on their own without much of my assistance.  Like boxes.  I can’t be bothered to take them out to the recycling dumpster in the back, so I break them down and hold on to them for sending gifts to The Grump’s kids.  At the end of the year, I find myself fighting the cardboard avalanche that’s threatening me from  behind the refrigerator.

I also have a lot of Beanie Babies and trinket boxes and ornaments and doo dads that people have given me over the years and I just haven’t found new homes for them yet.  Oh! And my “project drawer” full of clothes I don’t know how to sew.

There are, however, two collections that I actively formed, but not with that goal in mind.  Both of them are food.  The dreaded “carbs,” in fact: rice and flour.  I love rice so much that I could eat it every day.  My favorites are short grain white rice and jasmine rice. At the moment I have both of those and short grain brown, a mix of wild and brown rice, and forbidden rice.  I often have brown jasmine rice and long-grain white rice as well.  This is not a joke in the least. As much as we love rice, I like to mix things up and find that certain types go better with certain foods, so I have to make sure I’m ready no matter what meal we’re eating.

As for flour, when I first started baking I would keep on hand unbleached all-purpose flour, bread flour, and cake flour.  Now that I’ve begun experimenting with whole-grain baking, I’ve added white whole wheat, spelt flour and rye flour to the collection.  I also have various grains like 7-grain cereal, flax seeds, oatmeal, steel-cut oats, and some others I can’t recall right now.

It’s the same with sugars although I do not use them as often: coarse-grain raw sugar, fine-grain raw sugar, brown sugar (raw with added molasses), honey, and maple syrup. Oils: vegetable, grapeseed, olive, extra virgin olive, coconut, sesame, and peanut.  Vinegars: white, apple cider, balsamic, rice wine, white wine and I think sherry but I could be wrong.

It’s getting out of hand, but I can’t bring myself to stop. What I need to know is, is this normal? I suspect not.  Do you have any food collections, and if so, what do you collect and why?

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September 26th, 2011

Autumn is a time for shedding

The trees are being weird again.  Last year some of them went through the full range of colors, and only as they were dropping or about to, more started their change.  There were about three waves of “autumn” instead of the usual one.  This year….this year they’re just skipping the colors and going straight to brown.

I don’t understand New England or its trees.

But they’re not the only ones shedding things! I am trying to shed some leaves too, you see.  Now that I can handle a relatively decent amount of physical work, I’m slowly working my way back into working out.  I’ve begun stretching again, and it feels so. damn.  good! I’ve also started walking again, and that feels amazing as well.  Pretty soon I’ll be back at the gym!

In case I’m not the only one excited about the prospect of walking in the crisp air and dropping some pounds, I have some advice for other women starting a workout program.

  1. Wear a push-up bra.  I’m not kidding.  Everyone knows you need to be dressed comfortably; just try pulling skin-tight jeans off a sweaty body.  No.  But a push-up bra is a must.  a.) The girls will be jogging along with you if you know what I mean and they need proper support so your knockers aren’t knocking around.   b.) Knowing you’re a smokin’ hottie gives you better posture.  When you’ve got killer cleavage, you tend to naturally put it all out there.  And all the stares you’ll garner from the men driving by will only boost your confidence that much more.  Win-win.
  2. Put fruit in your water.  We all know you need to stay plenty hydrated, but water is boring and those flavored waters are a waste of money.  They taste like crap and are full of sugar or worse, fake sugar.  Just fill a reusable bottle with water and throw in some lime wedges or slices of cucumber, or even a bunch of fresh mint.  Hell, leave a twizzler in it overnight.  I won’t tell if you won’t.
  3. Smile at everyone you pass.  You know those super happy looking people in commercials, in their biker shorts and sports bras, walking enthusiastically down the sidewalk?  Now look at the sweaty, grouchy-looking people grunting through the park.  Now answer this: do you want to be the pretty workout chick or the scary workout chick? If people are focusing on your pearly whites, they’re not paying attention to the sweat making your hair stick to your forehead.
  4. Buy yourself some lingerie every time you go down a clothing size.  You have to show off your new body, and who better than to your significant other? Other than yourself I mean.  So even if you’re single, get yourself some lingerie to celebrate.  Just put it on and stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself, “hot damn but I look good.”
  5. Stop eating steamed vegetables and boring food.  If you’re cutting out fat, increase the seasonings.  Find ways to make food more exciting so finding healthy recipes is something to which you can look forward.  Your food should be as sexy as you are, not limp and lifeless

Now go out and have fun working out, you vixen.

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August 11th, 2011

Shifts and Chicken & Peach Salad

Grilled marinated chicken, sliced peaches and cucumbers, and baby spinach

Deliciously bittersweet, like life.

Last night was the first shift toward autumn.  I felt it silently creep over us in our sleep, that certain type of cold that means the season is changing.  I wouldn’t have expected it for a couple more weeks so I did not notice it other than to pull the blanket over myself in the early morning.  But when I got up, got ready, and walked out the door to go to my third chiropractor appointment this week, I noticed the change in the sky, in the whisper of the trees, and the charge of the air.

The promise of Autumn.

Yesterday we had a gorgeous day with *gasp*natural light filtering through my windows! Plus, I was feeling better.  Not great, but well enough to go back to work for the first time in a week, if only for half a day.  So I did.  And I baked muffins and took photos.  And then I made a chicken & peach salad and took more photos.  It is the salad I present to you today.

I had about as much light as my floor lamp gives me, but it was natural and pretty.  It’s sad that the most natural light I can muster in my kitchen still keeps my shutter speed at 1/20th of a second (dismally slow, in case you’re not photographically-minded), so bear with me that the photos aren’t exactly stunning.  But I’m happy with them, and in love with this salad.

Grilled chicken marinated in balsamic vinegar, orange juice, and thyme.  Sliced white peaches and cucumbers.  Baby spinach.  White wine vinaigrette with lavender and thyme.  All of these things combine to create a refreshing salad that makes a nice light dinner with some crusty bread, or turn your lunch into a sweet and happy interlude.

I overfilled my bowl

Just look at that NON YELLOW lighting!

The night I made this for dinner, Tuesday, also brought a shift in my perspective.  One of my mottos is that everything is about perspective, and I’ve been trying to get a grasp on mine, to find a new one.  I’ve alluded to it here and I will continue to do so as it is not something I can discuss publicly, but those on my (very private, as locked up and hidden as possible) facebook know about much of it.  We’ve been going through a lot of stress lately involving doctors, courts, money, and jobs.  Not all rolled into one problem, which just makes it that much more stressful.  It’s a bunch of things.  And Tuesday night brought the beginnings of the change in perspective I’ve been needing. I  was grateful for that.  Maybe, if I can really grasp it, things will start to fall into place.

Shifts in ideas.  Shifts in nature.  Shifts in healing.  They’re everywhere.  Embrace them.

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January 23rd, 2011

This one’s for the tree-huggers: Almond Crescent Cakes

crescent cakes

The powdered sugar was melting off...I didn't let them cool enough first!

Back in high school when I first decided to follow the spiritual path my heart was pointing out for me, I followed it diligently.  I’ve always believed that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing all the way.  It’s really a mantra of mine.  Not to say I’ve ever been fanatical about anything – life is about balance, you see.  But therein lies the problem.  I knew paganism was right for me because I felt so complete and ebullient practicing it.  Following my natural propensity for finding joy in nature really solved a lot of problems for me, and it still does.

Yet.  I began to wane a little my last few years of college, because I did not have the time to celebrate rites and holidays as much as I would have liked.  My practicing has waned even more since, even though I’ve wanted to keep the spirit alive in my life and home.  I’ve had doubts; the old agonies of doing what I feel is true to myself versus what others want from me.  My struggles with severe obsessive compulsive disorder, which had finally found some semblance of peace when I embraced my true faith, have begun to return.

So around this past Yule (the pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice), I made a decision.  Not an “I need to do blah blah blah” decision, but a deep-down, soul-grabbing decision.  I am going to find that inner peace again by rekindling the passion.  Peace from passion.  See? Balance.

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