dyeing eggs for Easter

After seeing so many sites with gorgeous naturally dyed eggs and an earlier attempt at it with friends, I knew I wanted to try many foods to find a few that worked. Yesterday, I tested a few by myself – cumin, blueberries, and spinach. Only blueberries yielded a lovely dye that clung to my eggs. Today, in case a few proved disappointing, I selected many food items from the list on this website, choosing what I knew I had in the fridge, freezer, or cabinet.

We used lavender, chamomile, coffee, beets, carrots, parsley, blueberries, cranberries, and grape juice. I prepared the food items by boiling them in water for 5-15 minutes and straining the liquid into my dye cups. In the case of beets and grape juice, I merely dumped the liquid from canned beets into the cup and poured the fruit juice right from the fridge. To each dye cup, I added roughly 1 dump or 2 tablespoons of vinegar. While tending the stove to keep Oliver away and making lunch, the house was coming undone. Oh well.

I got labels ready so we could remember which ones yielded the best color and repeat with our extra eggs.

Elliott was eager to check on color, while Oliver sharked around, eager to pull off the tablecloth. The first batch proved exciting for beets, blueberries, chamomile, coffee, and lavender. Carrot and parsley resulted in no color change, so we just put those eggs in another color, but added rubber bands for effect.

 

After they drip dried a few minutes, I grew impatient and rolled them in a paper towel. This resulted in some that were a bit splotchy, but others held their color well.

Overall, we were quite happy with the shades and variety. Lovely, eh? There is still time today… what do you have in your freezer or cabinet to work with?

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what I am normally doing

9 o’clock on a Sunday night… normally, I would be knitting with friends. A great group of friends, I tell you. One week might be five of us together, drinking wine and talking about our husbands. Another week might be hot tea and admiring one another’s new project or progress while chatting about our little ones. Now with a few preggies in the bunch, the nights tend to be shorter and the wine is on hold. But that is okay because there is always some laughing, some complaining, some quiet pauses, some sharing, some advice.

While the group has changed since I came to Muncie and met these great knitting friends, this has been a wonderful relief, a constant, that is just regular enough. Some weeks plans change and many of us cannot make it. But we will try again the next week and, most weeks, we will meet.

Tonight was a night that had many of us in other places, or recovering from being other places. So I am home, supposedly working on my other projects. But I am thinking of knitting and the comfort of the group. It is something that I will greatly miss when we move. By being part of this group I have come to find a few things I might not have found otherwise.

First, I rediscovered knitting. For well over a year before coming to Muncie, I had put knitting on hold. And I never challenged myself with my knitting, sticking to simple projects. Seeing others work complicated patterns inspired me to push myself with new challenges. If I got stuck, I knew I could bring my problem to the group and someone would be there to help me along. While frustrating, I love what I have accomplished and will carry those skills with me into each new project.

I also discovered a love of tea. I used to sip some chamomile if I needed a little something other than coffee. But I never enjoyed tea much. Seeing my friends love tea, try new kinds, and just delighting in tea, well, that got me started. Slowly, I tried tea at their homes. Then I started buying new kinds. And now I am hooked in a good way. Drinking tea and a wide variety has helped me nix my addiction to coffee.

The biggest thing I discovered is that I can make and maintain friendships with woman. For years, my husband was my only close companion and I had difficulty starting and keeping friendships with other woman. Often, moving effected that as we were not in any place long enough to work on establishing a close relationship. But now, four years in, I have found it really did take time for those relationships to grow. Moving will not stop me from being friends with these woman, but I wonder what it must be like to stay and know the same group of woman for years and years, through every trial and every celebration.

A little cup of tea tonight really got me thinking.

a new, but not so improved me

The way I see myself and the way I actually am has shifted over the years. I believe myself to be punctual, ordered – in home and body, and be somewhat calm. And I might sometimes slip up and say that I am some or all of these things. But since the mobility of Oliver, who I am has become plain to me. I am constantly late, I cannot keep thoughts in my head for more than a second, I feel chaos in everything I do, and I repeatedly lose my temper. Now I find myself making excuses to Elliott’s preschool about dirty diapers, clock not set right, and so forth to cover my inconsistencies. I find I forgot a thought while walking into another room. I yell over the smallest of issues. What had me thinking about this was a 45 minute visit to the pediatrician this morning:

After waiting a few minutes in the waiting room, Oliver needed to be undressed for the scale. While Elliott danced around with his magna doodle, I heaped our coats, Oliver’s clothing, and my bag on the chair. When it was time to migrate to the exam room, I was juggling Oliver, the heap of clothing and herding Elliott while he repeatedly blocked the nurse (who thankfully took our coats while she carried a laptop). After Oliver unpacked my bag, fell a few times and Elliott knocked him over to protect his magna doodle, we saw the doctor, got the lead test and shots we came for and repacked everything we brought. And there was some crying. After assigning Elliott the job of carrying his toy and my papers, and loading my arms with a toddler and our gear, we headed for check out. This is where it really got chaotic.

Apparently one nurse thought our insurance would allow for a certain pricing on shots, but the checkout nurse disagreed. I was asked to wait a few moments. I heaped our stuff up, Elliott sat in a chair, and Oliver toddled away, quite quickly, down the hall and into waiting rooms. He was lured back, only wanting to run again. Then he had to give their decorative snowman a few whacks. Next, Elliott declared he was hungry. Trying to be discreet, I pulled out pretzels for the boys. Oliver ate one and fussed to get down, while Elliott dug into the bag for a fistful. Then Oliver sneezed, blasting snot and pretzel all over his face and my white sweater (yeah, stupid choice). While I was getting him cleaned up, Elliott dug around in my purse for toys. Oliver toddled off yet again. While I was fetching Oliver, Elliott managed to spread out four or five items on the chairs and floor, some more embarrassing than others. And during all of this, I occasionally had to answer a question or two at the desk.

Finally, we haggled a bit more and they gave me the reduced fees. We gathered our stuff, lured Oliver to the elevator and trudged out. In one short hour, I was wiped out. I felt as if I had no control and I could not think straight. When an adult asked me a question, my mind was swimming with all my children’s issues. After that, I decided I wanted coffee and a cookie so off we went. I felt I needed that to continue the day.

I used to see parents juggling stuff and feel a bit of pity but also a bit of arrogance. Surely, that would not be me. I would have it all together. Today I felt I was the one being pitied by the other parents who watched this all unfold. And I really see now that until my children move out, I will not be as punctual, ordered or calm as I once was. Is this just one part of the price of raising children? I guess the positive of a morning like this – it could have been worse, much worse. No dirty diapers, no throwing up, no hurt children, no tantrums. Oh the list goes on of things I am thankful we did not have happen this morning!

oh, sanity

Oh, Sanity! Where have you been?

A weekend of peace and self-determined plans gave me an ounce if it back.

The weeks leading up to this trip had me thinking a great deal about a person’s need for breaks, regardless of gender or their job. I was rather bothered and, the more I thought about it, angry to realize some people (um, other husband’s) would be bothered by the idea of their spouse vacationing without them, even to the point of fighting or not allowing it. After a simple bit of logic with my spouse, he agreed that I should take a break. I pointed out that he had been a numerous trips lately for days at a time and I would appreciate the time to myself – to sleep without interruption, to eat a meal without getting up and down to serve anyone, to do a few activities of my choosing for as long as I like, to use the bathroom without having to worry about what a little toddler was exploring. And like that a promise was made for a whole week!

Sure there are lots of concerns. Can the family financially manage it? Can the other spouse take time to care for the children? And if those are issues, such as they were and are for us, the trip can be (and was) shorter. Or childcare can be found so it may not necessarily be the spouse watching over the children. But beyond these issues, I have tried to figure out why it would ‘not fly’ in other people’s homes, as one person said to this idea. Why? Because it money spent on one person and the other misses out? Because a spouse might cheat? Because a spouse thinks that the other one is not working that hard at their job? Would the feelings be the same if it was the husband wanting a mini-vacation or day away alone? Everyone working either a ‘real’ job or who is home with kids (or both!) works hard. And if someone wanted to cheat, they would find the time one way or another. Really, what real reasons can someone give for a flat-out refusal to a request for a break? Serious. Maybe I am overlooking something… Any reasons out there I am overlooking?

Sanity savers are important for everyone. Yes, everyone! Mike and I have found ways to exchange time with each other so we each feel we get time to ourselves or with friends. I have Sunday knit nights with the ladies after the kids are in bed. He goes golfing occasionally on Saturday mornings with a friend. If I want to run an errand alone, he will play with the boys. And this time, since he had business yet relaxing trips alone, I got a weekend to myself.

I finally settled on a weekend at a country B&B, Tryon Farm Guest House. I shopped at every antique shop I could find, visited Lake Michigan, and changed my plans on a whim if I wanted.

 

driving north through Indiana

Most of my highlights are my feelings of concern being let go. While shopping at my first antique shop, I kept feeling the ‘pull’ of children. Typically I cannot linger to take in all a shelf has to offer or I have to pass all the breakable nooks. I had to shake that feeling off and realize I could take as little or as much time as I wanted, looking wherever I was interested. Later on the trip, when I decided to pull off to a trail head, I just did it. I did not have to be concerned that it was 5:00 and the children would be hungry. Typically, on a family trip, we would have had to either plan the trip out better to have food with us or miss stopping right then. Because I could go on a whim, I felt such a rush making my way up the dune and saw a great sunset.

 

antique shop in Chesterton, Indiana

The trip was also time for me to reflect on my family, myself, and everyone else in the world. Oh, I know that sounds big, but when one can follow their ideas uninterrupted, you can get beyond the day-to-day picture and mull over bigger issues. Time to reflect is good. And again I will say it – it is good for everyone.

 

near the Tryon Farm Guest House, Michigan City, Indiana

My highlights of the trip:

  • lounging in a feather bed in the morning
  • having an utterly beautiful gourmet breakfast prepared for me and not having to worry over the prep or dishes
  • finding some sweet treasures – bead stringing beads for Elliott, a wool blanket to keep Oliver warm, an apron and bracelet for me, a lovely ornament to add to our unique holiday collection, and more interesting cloth napkins for everyday use
  • finding utterly smooth rocks at the lake to admire or make into rock houses, people and animals for the boys (uh, yes, rocks for Christmas!)
  • running up Mount Baldy at dusk at Indiana Dunes to catch the sunset shimmering on Chicago’s buildings
  • grabbing a late night chicken marsala dinner at a little Italian joint and watching it made from my table (I saw the mushrooms chopped, I saw them coat my chicken!) and savoring each bite
  • seeing alpacas up close and taking home a small bit of them (in the form of handspun yarn!)
  • trying and loving a small town café’s invented Honey Nut Latte

 

 beads for Elliott

rocks at Lake Michigan

Mount Baldy with Chicago in the distance

Here is hoping everyone gets the break they need and deserve.

(Oh, and on a totally separate note… my smart phone saved me so many times when I got lost, when I needed a place to eat, when I wanted to find coffee or antiques. Normally I curse my dependence, but my phone proved its worth this trip.)

my resolutions

While in line for coffee, Elliott asked for a cookie. I reminded him we were stopping the sweet treats, like HE had suggested. And amazingly he was fine with it. But he did make sure to point out, again, that I should stop buying coffee as well. Luckily, the drive-thru line was long and it gave us ample time to discuss bad habits, addictions, and gradual weaning, in a 4-year old appropriate way, of course!

I have been feeling rather disgusted with myself lately because my nail-biting habit was full-blown again and I was a cranky, nervous wreck with the boys. But when I was explaining about stopping bad habits to Elliott, it occurred to me that I am battling a few all at once. I am cutting bad coffee, I am reducing the number of to-go sweets I am eating, I am still fighting the nail-biting urges, and I am trying to make more time to exercise (not a bad habit, trying to make a new good habit). Well, instead of wanting instant success, I decided to cut myself some slack and give myself a few weeks to beat them all. It is may not be December 31st, but I am making some resolutions and trying to stick to them.

the good and bad of being hooked

For days now, I have been struggling with how to cope with my habit. A coffee-drinking, money-guzzling, gut-breaking habit. And then I realized my problem was far bigger than just wanting a coffee. I wanted the interaction with another (smiling) human being. I wanted the ease and instant satisfaction of the coffee, handed to me, ready to drink. I wanted the instant feel good feeling I get, the pleasure of 10 minutes where I feel like I can safely ignore the kids and relax. But with all this good stuff comes the bad. It is an expensive habit. It is a calorie-loaded habit (see, I tend to get a treat with my coffee too – a double whammy). And then the bad feelings creep in, the guilt totally negating all the good.  It is a lot of emotion wrapped up in one coffee.  And everyday I am riding this rollercoaster.

When I initially tried to cut back by getting smaller sizes, not ordering a cookie, or skipping a day, I started realizing I was compensating in other ways to get the same tiny relaxing high. I got take-out lunch (which was waaaay more money than coffee costs), I ate more candy and sweets at home (a lot more!), or I indulged in a marathon nail-biting sessions (a habit I did have broken). If I did not find a way to unwind and feel better, I was extremely snarly to the little men in my lives, and more often than not, the big man in my life too.

I know I have to break my habit(s). I also now realize I need a sane way of doing it – leaving me not feeling so guilty, so down. It took me 26+ years to quit biting my nails – with a list of arguments why I needed to stop, rewards, mental arguments, money blown on new ‘tricks’ to stop and a lot of frustration. Finally, it just clicked and I just stopped. But I do not have 26 years to break my newest habit. My piggy bank cannot take it, my waist cannot take it, my well-being is too tied to it.

I do not have a solution. Just spending another day thinking the problem over and wondering if I feel so good and then bad the days I splurge, will the reverse be true? Will I feel bad at first and then, once I see the benefits, feel good? Hard to believe it would be true the first cranky day without it.

role reversal

Typically, you have a child whining for a toy or cookie. Today though, I felt like the whining kid, throwing out any thing I could to get what I wanted. Here is how it played out, driving right from the Y to Starbucks:

Me: Lets go get my coffee then we will head for home.

Elliott: Why do you buy coffee?

Me: I like it.

Elliott: I know, you could just make coffee at home! (expressed like a lightbulb/aha moment)

Me: But I like their coffee. It just tastes better than what we make at home. (slight pause, feeling desperate, pulling out the big guns…) Plus, if I stop getting coffee, then you won’t be able to get a cookie there either.

Elliott: But we could just make cookies at home! (stated like another brilliant idea had come to him)

(And brilliant it was, I know.)

Me: (with reluctance) You’re right. How about I skip the cookie and just get the coffee? (knowing full well I had a secret biscotti tucked in my bag) Maybe I will stop getting coffee too. It is expensive. We can make cookies this weekend if you want.

Had we not arrived at Starbucks at that point, and he was a bit older, he may have also pointed out the idiocy of driving right from the Y to Starbucks where I would consume the calories I just burned. But as I sip my coffee and munch my biscotti, at least I can say my whininess did not end with a tantrum. Because for today, I got my way. Hehe…