Natural Egg Dying

(This is a repost of what I wrote for Handmade Philly this week)

 

 

 

It’s official- spring has sprung, and egg dying season is upon us.  Growing up, we always purchased food coloring kits, but if you’d like to try something a little more traditional, then please read on.  Natural dyes do take a little longer than their chemical counterparts, but I think the results are worth it. 

I like the idea that dying eggs can be safe for the environment, both by using natural elements as well as less packaging, while also paying homage to how I imagine our ancestors must have done it.  For this tutorial, I have also included a stencil technique if you’d like to add an additional layer of interest to your eggs.  

Let’s start with the beets, which will turn your eggs anywhere from pale pink to deep red-violet, depending on how long you leave them in the dye bath.  I boiled two cups of chopped beets with two cups of water, 1-2 tablespoons of white vinegar, and 1 T of salt .  I am told the eggs come out better when the dye mixture is hot, and since you have to hard boil them anyway, you can just put them all into the pot together & boil for 15 minutes.  After that, remove from heat, and leave the eggs in the mixture until desired shade is achieved.  I left mine in for several hours, and this is what I got: 

 

Since the natural dyes leave the eggs somewhat dull, you can polish them when they’re dry with a little bit of oil.  As you can see from the photo, the oil polish (I used canola) also deepens the color quite a bit.  For the egg on the left, I tried tying rubber bands around it to give it more texture.  For the one on the right, I used wild strawberry leaves as a stencil.  

To achieve the stencilling effect, gather whatever materials you think would make an interesting pattern on your egg.  I went out in my backyard and picked the following: 

 

Next, you will need some old nylon stockings.  Cut off the feet so you have a little bag big enough for the egg with room to tie it off.  Place the egg inside, with whatever material you are using for a stencil.  I tried to flatten the leaves out against the egg surface as best as possible, but it is a little tricky, and I liked the randomness of it anyway.  Then, tie off the open end of your stockings as tightly as possible with either a rubber band or a knot, and you should have something that looks like this: 

 

From there, you just put it in your dye bath until you’re ready to remove it.  Here are how some of my other eggs turned out: 

 

Boil one head of chopped cabbage for about 30 minutes.  Strain the liquid, and add ¼ cup white vinegar and ¼ cup of salt and your eggs so they are covered.  Not only will the eggs turn a beautiful shade of blue, but you can see the difference between leaving them in the dye bath for several hours vs. about an hour (bottom eggs).

 

For the turmeric eggs, I boiled one cup of water with 1 T. turmeric, 1 T. white vinegar, and 1 T. salt.  I transferred the mixture to dye cups & immersed my eggs for only about an hour.  

 

2 cups yellow onion skins boiled with 2 cups water, 1T. vinegar, & 1 T. salt.  I wrapped the one on the right in onion skins with nylon over top, and it came out with a really cool marbled texture. 

I haven’t personally tried these, but here are some other natural elements that you can experiment with.  Just remember to add the vinegar so the dye sticks to the eggs: 

Blue:                      

Canned blueberries, red cabbage (boiled), purple grape juice 
 
 Brown or beige: 
 
Black coffee, instant coffee, walnut shells (boiled), black tea
 
Green: 
 
Spinach (boiled), liquid chlorophyll
 
Orange:
 
Yellow onion skins (boiled), carrots (boiled), paprika(boiled) 
 
Pink:
 
Beets, cranberries or juice, raspberries
 
Red:
  
Lots of red onion skins (boiled), pomegranate juice, raspberries
 
Violet or purple: 
 
Violet blossoms, hibiscus tea, sm. amount of red onion skins (boiled)
 
Yellow: 
 
Orange or lemon skins (boiled), carrot tops (boiled), chamomile tea, ground turmeric (boiled), ground cumin (boiled), celery seed (boiled), green tea

I’m Loving/What’s Your Gadget?

I have not been doing a lot of crafting lately.  Ok, “not a lot” = none.  Jackson, the sweet little boy that he is, has been struggling with sleeping on his own, which has kept me up in the wee hours, and thus made me ready for bed every night essentially before it’s even dark out.  I have never been much of a night owl, but generally, before #3 child came along, the time after the kids went to bed has been my work time.  *Sigh*  I will get back to it again someday soon…

Anyway, I have been doing more cooking lately.  I have always liked to cook & experiment in the kitchen (it’s the cleaning up that I can do without).   Bill likes to cook, too, which is why, at Christmas time a few years back, I started a tradition of stuffing his stocking with cool culinary gadgets on which we wouldn’t normally splurge for ourselves.   And hey, it doesn’t hurt that I happen to use these gadgets as well (I’m selfish that way, but hey, I figure it’s a win/win).  In years past, among other things, I have gotten him extra-nice spatulas, silicon pancake molds, and a garlic wheel (which in theory, seemed like it would be really cool, but actually ended up being a dud). 

Last year, he returned the favor and got me one of the things I am now unable to live without:  my OXO Salad Spinner by Good Grips.  This thing has single- handedly changed the way we eat.  I used to never make salad, because I hated the washing of the lettuce, then the drying.  I can remember practially using up half a roll of paper towels just to dry off a head of lettuce leaves.  I’m not really one for bagged salad mixes, so it was enough to keep me from making it regularly.  Now, thanks to my gadget, we have it almost every day, and we’re probably a bit healthier for it. 

I realized the other day that there is another kitchen device that I have become completely dependent on:  my garlic press.  I tend to go a little nuts when it comes to garlic.  If a recipe calls for 2 cloves, I’ll most likely put in six.  Yeah…. maybe this is why I don’t have more friends.  When we first got married,  I was lucky enough to recieve a really nice press for my bridal shower, and I have been using it ever since.  In my opinion, not all garlic presses are created equal.  Again, I have to hand it to OXO for creating something that is comfortable and doesn’t take the strength of a sumo wrestler to use.  The problem?  After 7 years of use, it finally pressed its last clove and went to that great garlic farm in the sky.  The funny thing is, it didn’t break at the joints, or some other place that would make sense, but the actual metal broke right in half!  And this wasn’t some flimsy little garlic press, it was heavy-duty.  The point where it broke had to be at least a half inch thick.  I guess I don’t know my own strength, yuck, yuck. 

Anyway, believe it or not, I did have a backup (I know… it’s sick).  I scoured through my drawers and found it:  the lesser press.  The red-headed stepchild of the garlic pressing world.  No rubberized handles.  No comfort grip.  If I put more than one clove in at a time I basically have to jump on the thing to get it to press.  Now, you may be wondering why I don’t just buy minced garlic in a jar?  This is where I get all persnickety:  jarred is just not the same as fresh.  Yes, I am a garlic snob– and chopping it won’t do, either.

I do feel somewhat guilty, in these economic times, when people are losing their jobs and having trouble putting food on the table, getting all fussy about a garlic press.  But it could be worse, I could be addicted to Gucci (I’m not judging, I’m just sayin’, garlic is a little easier on the wallet).  As I’ve been ‘suffering’ these past weeks with an inferior garlic press, I’ve been thinking–  Does anyone else have a gadget, etc. that they have come to depend on?  I’m not necessarily talking about cooking instruments, just something that you can no longer live without?  If so, please share, I’d love to hear.

Therapy in a Jar

A good idea is a good idea, whether it’s mine or not.  Apparently, this concept has made it’s way across the blogosphere, and halfway around the world and back, but I’m just learning about it today. The Magical Thinking Jar is something that will be finding shelf space in our house for a while (or maybe forever).

With all the cute musings and observations that are overheard around this house, I’m surprised we haven’t thought of it already.  Basically, it’s just a jar that holds scraps of paper with all the little things you hear your kids say… the adorable things that you don’t want to forget…. the things that will keep you from strangling them when they are channeling Damian and chucking LEGOs toward you at hyper speed merely for suggesting they eat their snack in the kitchen… just pull one out and… voilá – instant therapy in a jar. 

Then, at some point I suppose you can do somthing with all of this cuteness: put it all into a scrapbook, perhaps, or, well, that’s about all I can think of right now, but you get the idea.

Come to think of it, you don’t even need kids to do this.  Maybe you just use it as your idea jar– a place to store those random thoughts or inspirations that you want to retain for later, that you jot down on a piece of paper, cocktail napkin, junk mail… until you can put them into a journal or bring them to fruition.  I’m getting inspired just thinking about it.

Drum roll, please

And the winner is……

 

Debbie! She left a tip about line drying her clothes, and a strategy to acquire some bailout money, which, with four kids, she probably can legitimately declare herself a bank….

Hey, a special shout out to Micie66, Katrina, and Amelia who all linked the blog and shop as well.  You guys rock!

And of course, thanks to everyone else for playing along, leaving your valuable tips, and for reading!!  So much fun.  I’m already thinking of the next giveaway 🙂

 

One more thing on a random note– I’m not the best about deciphering my blog stats, but I have noticed I’ve been getting steady traffic from people clicking the wordpress tag “big belly”– is this weird, or just me??  And…. should I be offended?  LOL– Gotta love that Maxfield!

 

😉

How to Make an Inexpensive Curtain Rod

Since we’re sort of in the process of finishing off the boys’ room, I thought I’d share a fun & easy project that goes along with this week’s theme of money saving ideas:  custom curtain rods.  I first tried this when we lived in Florida, and vowed to never buy one of those expensive, heavy wood curtain rods (you know, the ones with the fancy finials & all?) again.  It’s so easy to make something yourself.  Please keep in mind, that this really only works for single windows.  If you have a double or triple, I’m sure you could use something else (like PVC)  for the rod itself, but mine were for singles so I used dowel rods.  Here’s what you’ll need for each window/rod:

One 3/4″ or 7/8″ wooden dowel rod- approx.  $2.50  (can be purchased at local craft or home improvement store

Two 2″ or 2½” wooden doll heads- approx. $1.99 (can also be purchased at craft store- I used my 40% off A.C. Moore coupon)

One 3/16″ dowel

Paint or stain and optional sealer

Wood glue

Hooks to hang curtains on-  Some inexpensive options to consider are the Giant Cup Hooks ($1.99 for a 4 pack from Walmart), or closet hooks ( $2.79/for two from Lowes).  Just make sure they hang far enough from the wall to accommodate the finial (doll head).

Drill and 3/16″ drill bit

These are your unfinished wood supplies

This will work for the larger dowel size

Closet hooks- will work for hanging the larger dowel size

 

These only work with the 3/4 size dowel
These only work for hanging the 3/4″ size dowel

 First, cut your dowel down to desired size, if needed.  I personally like my curtains to hang beyond the actual window itself, so I left it at the 48″ length.  Paint or stain desired color. 

Paint or stain the wooden dowel heads also.  This is the part that will mostly be exposed, so you can get really creative here, either using a different color than the dowel, or painting cute little designs, like swirls, stripes, flowers, etc.  on it.  I painted mine orange with yellow polka dots to match the furniture in the room:

 

 

Once it’s all dry, you can seal it with polyurethane, tung oil, or whatever clear coat you choose- or none at all.  I used a clear acrylic gloss medium because it drys in minutes.  You can get it in the art & paint section of your local craft store.  Allow to dry.

Next, drill your hole into either end of the dowel rod, trying to keep it as centered and straight as possible.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be close.  You want it to go in about an inch or so. 

Do the same thing on the bottoms of your doll heads (flat side) if they’re not pre-drilled already.  Mine were, but the hole wasn’t big enough, so I enlarged it with the 3/16″ bit.

Once this is done,  cut your 3/16″ dowel down to size (about 1½-2″).  I used garden pruners to cut mine.  To make it feed into the hole a little easier, you can insert the end into a pencil sharpener for a second or two.  Also, if you find your hole is slightly larger than the dowel, just wrap it with a layer or two of masking tape.  Fill the hole in the dowel with wood glue & insert the small dowel in both ends.  Or you can insert the dowel into the finial first, like I did:

Insert one doll head into dowel on one end of curtain rod.  You can fill the hole on the ball with glue, too, but mine had a tight enough fit & didn’t need it.  Plus, you’ll need to leave at least one end un-glued so that you can remove it to get your curtains on and off:

 All that’s left now is to put your curtains on, insert the doll head on the other end, and hang your curtain with your choice of hooks:

  

Before

Before

After

After

Detail

 

 

Please excuse the poor quality photographs, and the icky plastic over the window, that we inadvertently already punched a hole through!  I have also done this project with pre-made finials that were bought on super-duper clearance for, like, $5.00 and just stained the dowel to match.

Don’t forget to leave your tips on the Giveaway post to be entered in the drawing by 8 PM EST!

Giveaway Reminder and Some Swag

Hey everybody, thanks for all the great money saving tips!  Some really interesting ideas happening.  Don’t forget, it’s not too late to enter, you have until 8 PM EST on Friday, Nov. 21.  Just leave a comment on this post with your money saving strategies (either holiday related, or everyday) to be entered to win.  And remember, if you link my blog and/or my Etsy shop on your blog or website, you get another 5 entries each! Thanks to everyone who’s done that already!

I thought I’d finally let you know what the prize is:  A set of 4 handmade felt holiday ornaments perhaps something like these, from my woodland series:

 

I will have a few different series to choose from, but right now, I just have woodland photos. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also thought of a couple more small money saving, or at least economical tips: 

1.  If you have a Walmart Super Center near you, they have a discount bread section for items on which the “sell by” date is about to expire.  They mark down a lot of their specialty & artisan breads by at least 50%, as well as pastry & other fresh bakery items.  I know grocery stores do this with their meats, too.  Since we usually either freeze or immediately eat most of our breads & meats anyway, we can get a higher quality food item for the same price as the discount brand.

2.  Speaking of bread, no one in my household likes the “butts” of the loaves, so I save them to make croutons.  Just cube them, toss them with some melted butter & seasonings, and bake them in the oven or toaster oven until they’re crispy.

I do have one more money-saving project if you’re looking to do custom, cute curtain rods on the cheap, but I would like to post photos, and I’m not quite done yet.  Hopefully Friday.  In the meantime, keep your great tips coming!!

An Economic Challenge and Another Giveaway

It seems these days all everyone in this country and really, all over the world, is talking about is the economy.  October saw the US unemployment rate sore to 6.5 percent.  Every day, more and more jobs are being outsourced to other countries in an effort to save money.  Maybe I need a little education here, but, how can a country support itself if its citizens cannot support themselves?   The holidays are right around the corner.  Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.  Are you feeling it?  Abundance is everywhere, if you’re willing to look for it, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a little smarter about our finances.   I am interested in hearing about everyone’s money-saving tips, or if it’s even an issue for you.  They can involve how you’re adjusting your holiday shopping, ways to recycle/reuse items you already have, or just general everyday strategies.  I’m sure there are some great, “outside the box” ideas out there, and since we’re all friends 😉 , let’s share!

In the spirit of my Potluck post, I’ll pose the same challenge.  Leave a comment with your strategies for keeping more of the cold hard stuff in your pocket (that’s what she said), and you’ll be entered to win a prize.  Once I have confirmed my last recipient has gotten her prize, I will post what you are playing for this time (yes, I was late in sending it out, but I assure you, that won’t happen again!).

Also,  I would like to modify the rules a little to be fair.  Each comment you leave will be worth one entry.  You may leave more than one comment, but you will only be entered again if you leave another tip.  Also, if you have a blog and link to/mention this blog and post, that will get you another 5 entries.  If you link my Etsy Shop, yet still another 5 entries.  The prize will again be something handmade, like I said, I will get more specific once I have confirmed my last recipient has received hers. Contest will close at 8pm EST on Friday, November 21, 2008.

So, without further ado, I will get started.   First, let me say that when I talk about & share the things I make, I’m not trying to make anyone feel inadequate, nor I am looking for accolades (don’t get me wrong, I  *love* hearing your feedback, it’s just not why I do it).  I simply love what I do, and I like to share. I feel blessed for that.  I feel dually blessed that, although I wouldn’t say I am at the point of making a living at it, there are wonderful people out there that are willing to appreciate and support my passion.  For this reason, I do appreciate the fact that I am able to make a lot of holiday and other gifts and (arguably) save money at the same time.  I’m not sure if you can call this a tip, but it’s one thing I do…

Ok,here we go.  I despise credit cards.  That’s not to say there isn’t a hefty balance on mine right now, but I will do everything I can NOT to use it.  I also know enough about myself that if there’s cash in my pocket, that spells trouble, so very rarely do I carry cash.  I try to pay for everything with my debit/bank card.  This keeps my spending in check, because basically, if the money is not in my checking account, I won’t spend it.  We use direct deposit, and take advantage of the fact that they will split the deposit into separate accounts.  This might sound backwards, but since I use the debit card for everything, it allows me to make sure I’m not spending the money that should be going toward monthly bills.  Once or twice a month, when I’m paying bills, I transfer the money that I need from the savings to the checking, and it’s all taken care of.  Ah, the beauty of online banking!  I also pay everything I can online to save paper/stamps/time.

Speaking of credit cards, there are some great point- earning programs out there.  I know a friend of a friend who bought a car on her credit card, (which she paid off the following month) because she knew it would earn her enough points to take her European vacation!  So smart!  That’s like, free money.  I love free money.  Like I said, I’m not a fan of credit cards, but I there are two other programs that I use:  Upromise and MyPoints.    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Upromise and how it works.  If you haven’t, basically it allows you to register your credit cards, bank cards, grocery cards, etc. and certain restaurants, stores, and manufacturers in turn give you a small percentage of what you spend on their products/services, which can then be converted into a 529 plan for anyone’s college tuition.  I have to admit, I pretty much let this run on auto pilot & don’t actively seek out as much savings as I could. There are a lot of online shopping resources that I could/should be using that would contribute a lot more than my grocery purchases, but hey, it’s still free money. 

MyPoints works in a similar way, but you don’t have to wait quite as long for the rewards.  You basically sign up for their emails, and get sent various opportunities to earn points by visiting websites and taking surveys, if you want.  It’s totally free, but it does take longer to earn enough points for rewards this way.  If you want to earn points faster, you can shop through their website at various online merchants to earn a greater percentage of points.  You’re also entitled to special member discounts, etc.  I figure, if it’s something I need to buy anyway, why not earn the points?  I’ve done a lot of Christmas shopping this way in the past, as well as for myself at Amazon.com, drugstore.com, and Overstock.com.  And I’m always looking for who’s willing to throw in free shipping, especially now that the holidays are approaching.  Anyway, so far with the MyPoints program, I have earned enough to purchase myself a $100.00 MP3 player from Circuit City, and various gift cards for restaurants and retailers like Old Navy, Regal Cinemas, and Bath & Body Works…. all for free.  Do I sound like an infomercial?

On the homefront, since we can’t afford new windows, this year we bought the plastic coating that fuses onto the windows with a hair dryer to keep the drafts out– not sure how/if it will affect our energy bill, but it’s worth a try.  I’m also finally, after over a year, getting around to hanging curtains around the house, which will hopefully help as well.  We also are in the process of insulating our attic and outside doors.   

I would share more, but I feel like I’ve already written a novel- so let’s hear from you!  I will try to update later this weekend with more info on the prizes- Good luck, and have a great weekend!