Improvised Eggs

For now, my kids are still into dying eggs for Easter. Usually we cover the kitchen table with newspaper, hard boil the eggs, and rely on Paas for all our egg-dying needs.

But when Easter falls in March and your March looks somewhat like this…

We are not driving anywhere today...

We are not driving anywhere today…

Driving out to Walgreens to pick up egg dye just isn’t the best use of your day.

So we improvised.

Bad tasting but makes a great dye.

Bad tasting but makes a great dye.

Earlier in the month my daughter needed packages of sugary water flavoring for a school project. Long story but, since the dollar store didn’t have Kool-Aid, we bought some FlavorAid instead. At 99cents for a pack of twelve it looked like a great deal. However, there is a reason FlavorAid is so cheap. Imagine the worst fake fruit flavor ever, multiply that by 100x and then sweeten it up with twenty tablespoons of sugar and you might come close to the flavor of Flavor-OMG-this-tastes-awful-Aid, (named for the fact that the flavor needs help?)

Cherry FlavorAid made the egg speckled red

Cherry FlavorAid made the egg speckled red

Needless to say we had a lot of it left over. So that’s what we used! Dissolved in a cup of water and three tablespoons of vinegar, it made a fine egg dye. Some of the eggs came out speckled too, which was an unexpected, but not unwelcome effect.

The Kiwi Watermelon flavor made green eggs. The Lemonaid flavor made yellow eggs. For some reason the Grape flavor made brown eggs, but they kinda looked like chocolate, so we didn’t mind. The longer the eggs stayed in the dye bath, the darker they came out.

It took a little while for them to dry and until they did, they were susceptible to smears. So if you do this project, expect some finger color transfer.

Now there's a nice looking Easter egg.

Now there’s a nice looking Easter egg.

My youngest had the idea to wrap some of the eggs in rubber-bands before submerging them into the dye cups and those eggs had great results! I think the rubber-band trick would work with any type of dye.

We’ve gotten similar results marking up the egg with a white crayon or a wax candle, but the rubber-banding was less labor intensive.

The blue coloring came from the Berry Punch FlavorAid.

Also, the colors did not seep through the shell into the egg itself, which sometimes happens when using regular food coloring.

 

Would we do it again? Yes! FlavorAid + Egg Dying = Project Success.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? If this stuff can color eggs, what's it doing to your body if you drink it?

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? If this stuff can color eggs, what’s it doing to your body if you drink it?

Photographs © Karin Blaski, 2016

Top Five Arguments Against Christmas Cards and Why I Send Them Anyway

Spreading holiday cheer is worth the time and expense.

Spreading holiday cheer is worth the time and expense.

“Christmas cards are a thing of the past.”

“Don’t you care about trees? Send an e-mail.”

“Facebook is the new delivery system. Post your message there. That’s where all your friends and family are anyway.”

“Who has the time? Don’t even bother. They just get thrown away.”

“Postage is expensive. Don’t forget about your carbon footprint.”

I know all the arguments. Hear them, read them more and more every year. According to Eric Garcia at MarketWatch the number of paper cards delivered in 2014 dropped by 30%. But you know what? I like Christmas cards. I like sending them out and I especially like getting them. My name and address handwritten on an envelope is especially cool because (duh, dun, duh) it hardly ever happens! Makes me feel like a kid, oooh something’s in the mail for me and it’s not a freaking adult-world bill. They’re pretty, they’re filled with joy and family pictures and messages of love. They make me feel good.

The Christmas Card Wreath. Now isn't that festive?

The Christmas Card Wreath. Now isn’t that festive?

Sure I care about trees. It’s why I hug them regularly, donate money to grow new ones, and take good care of the 400+ year old ones in my yard. My bookshelf honors their sacrifice. Why not send an e-mail instead? Really? Does e-mail make me think of holiday cheer and settling down with a nice, hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire? NO. It makes me think of work, work, work, work, work. I get thousands of e-mails a day, and delete 70% of them. Don’t make me sift through my e-mail to find a link to to your animated Jesus gif. Yes, that’s a thing.

Ah yes, much better than reading e-mail.

Ah yes, much better than reading e-mail.

What about Facebook? I do put holiday messages from both my family and my company out on Facebook and Twitter. My friends and customers hang out in those places. I hang out in those places. But just like my enjoying a good ebook does not preclude me from enjoying the weight of a solid hardcover in my hands, the sound of a page turning, the smell of fresh print . . . I digress. Anyway, not all of my friends and family use social media. Some are intentionally modern luddites. Yeah, that’s a thing too.

It does take time to find good cards to send, purchase said cards, look up mailing addresses, stuff and address envelopes, pay for and affix stamps, journey to the post office, open the mail slot . . . when you could be doing something else, anything else. Isn’t that the point though? I have chosen to take time away from my daily routine to do this small gesture because I care to do it. I also bribe my children to help. My twelve year old has very nice printing and my ten year old can stick a stamp like nobody’s business. I can get an easy hour of child labor for a couple candy canes.

Once I release those cards into the world if the recipients choose to throw them away, well that’s completely up to them. Free will I say! We like to save ours– especially the pictures– the others will most likely forge a new life cut up and put into some crafty kid’s project. Yes, repurposing Christmas cards is also, a thing.

The price of a stamp has risen! In the grand scheme of spending, a stamp is still pretty cheap. In a society that has no problem handing over $4.65 for a Venti Teavana ® Oprah Chai Tea Latte at Starbucks— Yes. Thing– spending 49 cents on a stamp is a matter of perspective. Got 100 cards to send? Well there’s some real money. That’s when you weigh your priorities. If food on the table, medical care, and heat in the winter top your list, then of course, Christmas cards and Chai Tea Lattes shouldn’t even be on your list. But if you’ve got an entertainment budget that includes The Baby Mop . . . unfortunately, a thing . . . you can splurge on a few stamps.

The dreaded carbon footprint could be holding you back, but you could do what I do: stop at the post office on the way to or from work. You’re out and about anyway. By the way, if your carbon footprint is the reason you don’t go out and about then why on Mother Earth are you using electricity to read this blog? Better yet, get your stamps from your mail person who comes to your house most days and once stamped, put the cards in your mailbox with the flag up. The post office is already doing its part to promote good stewardship.

So, no, I don’t think Christmas cards are a thing of the past. I still send them and receive them with happiness in my heart and I will continue to do so right up until the zombie apocalypse. Not a real thing.

Photos by Karin Blaski © 2015

Quick Summer Project? No, Not Really.

The checkerboard table. Fun for the whole family.

The checkerboard table. Fun for the whole family, but make no promises as to when this project will be completed.

Okay, okay. I admit I move slowly in the summer. Turtle slow. Any “side” project without a deadline gets put aside so I can meet more immediate needs: running my business, weeding the garden, driving the kids somewhere, writing/revising, making meals, playing Bubble Pop… Then once school starts and the teaching schedule hits full force, I’m lucky if I can scratch out fifteen consecutive minutes to take a shower, let alone work on something non-essential.

Which is why that great light-bulb-moment idea I had in July to turn my square coffee table into a checkerboard took me nearly three months to complete. Truly the only reason I finished is because I needed to clear out the work space in the garage in order to park the van. Once the weather cools all the trees in my yard start vomiting leaves and berries and sap and acorns. Anything left out in the driveway is quickly doused with an autumn explosion of sticky. Starting in October, I had to scrub wipe down my van’s windows before I could see through them to drive. This ten minute morning ritual served as a nice reminder that I needed to get that #$^%!* (special) project done.

So here is my little table painting project, in picture steps, just in case you ever have a square table and some time on your hands. I’m sure you’ll finish much faster than I did.

Step 1: Sand the table so it’s as smooth as . . . [insert appropriate noun here].

The square table, once covered with child graffiti, now sanded to pristine perfection.

The square table, once covered with child graffiti, now sanded to pristine perfection.

Step 2: Using painter’s tape, mask off a border. My table had a built-in border with a groove, so I masked to the inside edge of the groove.

Blue painter's tape is magic on a cardboard roll. Use it to create clean, straight paint edges.

Blue painter’s tape is magic on a cardboard roll. Use it to create clean, straight paint edges.

Step 3: A standard checkerboard is eight by eight squares. The size you choose for your squares will depend on the size of your table. In a perfect world the size of your table will evenly divide by eight. Mine didn’t. It was off by about 1/4″. So I found the center point of the table and with a yard stick and a pencil I divided the table into quadrants, then split those in half, and then half again. As a result my center squares are just a little bit smaller than the ones around the edges, but the difference is so small, no one but you and I will ever know.

Note to self: Pine wood is soft. Don’t press too hard when drawing lines with a pencil as gouges may result. More cursing sanding will ensue.

Step 4: Now here is where I used a lot of painter’s tape. I placed the outside edge of the tape on the outside of what would be the red squares in the first, third, fifth, and seventh columns. To remind myself which squares I planned on painting I marked them with a scrap of tape.

Press the tape down securely so the paint doesn’t seep underneath and ruin your edges.

Step 5: I painted three coats of red, drying at least two hours (to two weeks) between coats. I used a flat finish water-based paint with primer already in the mix. I cleaned the paint brush after each coat (with soap and water) and made sure the paint brush was completely dry before proceeding to the next coat.

IMG_0681

Only paint the perfect squares (marked with a scrap of blue tape–pull off the scraps as you paint).

Step 6: When the first set of red squares was finished, I removed the taped edges. Then, I taped again on the outside edge of what would be the red squares running in the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth columns. I repeated the entire process: painting three coats of red, cleaning up and drying between coats. After the last coat of red dried, I removed all the tape, except the outside border (see below).

It's September and the red squares are done!

It’s September and the red squares are done!

Step 7: Now on to the black. I used a flat finish water-based paint and repeated the taping/painting process for the black squares making sure I taped the outside edge each time. I painted the even columns of black squares first, and then the odd. Three coats were used for each square.

When painting, always have your brush strokes go in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

When painting, always have your brush strokes go in the same direction as the grain of the wood.

Step 8: After the last coat of black dried, I removed all the tape, except the outside border. Using a yard stick and a black permanent marker (medium chiseled edge Sharpie) I smoothed any rough edges caused by paint seeping underneath the tape.

When the black squares are done, remove the tape and prepare to paint the border.

When the black squares are done, remove the tape. Tidy edges with a black permanent marker.

Note to self: If you leave your project in the garage for more than a month, household members will start putting things on top of it, including the remote control for the TV in the garage. Any flat surface is at risk.

Step 9: I removed the inside border tape and re-taped the outside of the border to protect the red/black grid. Then I painted the border. I used three coats of black.

Step 10: I painted a thin line of silver metallic craft paint into the groove on the inside edge of the border. I used three coats of the silver, a small, thin paint brush, and a steady hand.

Step 11: I applied six coats of a flat polyurethane, drying between coats, lightly sanding with steel wool between the third and fourth coats. I let the last coat of polyurethane cure for one week and brought the table into the house.

Next up, the winter project. Sewing and stuffing red and black checkers. Six red checkers done . . . check back in three months.

Checkers anyone?

Checkers anyone?

Extra tips: Use a paint that already has primer in the mix, otherwise you’ll have to prime the surface before painting. I painted a pine table with knots so coverage was important. You might not need so many coats. Follow instructions on the paint and polyurethane regarding drying times. For example, the polyurethane I used required an extended drying time after the second and fourth coats. Advice from the Home Depot paint guy who sold me the paint: Don’t shake your can of polyurethane. Ever. Always stir. Shaking puts bubbles into the medium which are next to impossible to remove.

Questions about this project? Ask in the comments and I’ll try to help.