Saturday, March 10, 2007

Save Your Skins!

When I was a kid, my oldest sister, Kim, gave me the best birthday presents. I don't say this just because I worshiped her like the goddess that she was/is, she really gave me GREAT presents. And since she lived in California, and I in Washington state, they usually came in the mail - very special to a kid. One year she made a kit for making my own beaded jewelry: a bracelet and necklace, or one long necklace. I made the bracelet and necklace and wore them proudly until I outgrew them. I still have the box containing her instructions and the jewelry I made.

When I was about 11 or 12, she sent me a book called "The Reasons for Seasons" by Linda Allison. It is stained and torn, but I still have it too. I used it in Junior High School as a reference for papers, speeches, and science experiments. It is a fascinating book and if you can get your hands on one, buy it. Your children will thank you. One of my favorite parts in the book is in the "Spring" chapter, and it deals with making English Pace eggs with onion skin dye. To make the dye the book suggests you

"Pour a bagful of yellow onion skins into a pan of water. Simmer for one hour until the water is deep red. Cool it and strain out the skins."

In the past I have alternatively used red onion skins which dye the eggs a deep burgundy. Since red onions are mostly what I cook with that's what I'll be using this year. What I have done, almost every year since I got this book, is make the dye as described in the book, then proceed with the book's instructions for "Pace Eggs"

"1. Cut a nylon stocking into 3 inch bands.
2. Collect some small flowers and leaves. Place them on the surface of the egg and bind it with a strip of nylon. (Make it as tight as you can)
3. Simmer the egg in dye (onion skin dye would be splendid), for 20-30 minutes.
4.Let them cool, then remove the bindings. You will be left with leaf outlines on a colored egg."

I would add a disclaimer to use only leaves and flowers that you know are edible or not toxic. This time of year where I live I can find parsley, dandelions, lemon balm, and young blackberry leaves in my yard. The parsley and lemon balm make very pretty designs, and the lemon balm actually stains the egg green under the leaf. Young fern tips are also nice, making a lacy relief, but it's a little early yet for ferns. You could also buy fresh herbs at the grocery store.

The use of eggs for Easter celebrations, and indeed the word Easter itself have secular origins; according to the book the word Easter comes from the the word "Eoster" - the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility. So, clearly the dying of "Easter" eggs is not restricted those who celebrate Easter as a religious holiday. But could you imagine this:

with these?!

The bread is Tsoureki, or Greek Easter bread. I found the photo - along with a recipe - here.
That batch of eggs, from 2003 according to my files, were dyed with yellow onion skins. Yes, I really think the parsley and lemon balm worked best there.

I have taken a little break from the computer lately because I have been getting monstrous head, neck and shoulder aches. I am sure this is from my ridiculously poor posture at the computer. Also spring has arrived here, and when the sap starts a-runnin' in the trees I get all giddy and need to plant things. Which is the best segue I can come up with at the moment to mention that I've started a gardening blog here. So if it seems like I have been a little absent from the comment boards of late, it's not you - I've been busy!
Happy Spring to you all, and if it still feels like winter where you live, just vicariously enjoy my garden and don't forget to save your onion skins!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Let me just say that what I know of you all, from what I have read on your blogs, (and I realize that "tip of the iceberg" is a gross understatement here) you all seem like some of the most sensitive women around. Only people who are in touch with their own feelings can share so easliy the intimate details of their lives. I realize that this medium is anonymous and that may make it easier to open up, still it's hard to admit that we've behaved in a less than stellar way when it comes to our parenting skills - even to complete strangers.
Now there's a thought. Why don't we ever list "Parenting" on a resume when it says to "list skills..."
Or maybe you do. If so, I'm totally impressed. (And a little jealous because it wouldn't occur to me to do so.)
Please don't take the quotes in my previous post as a suggestion that any of us behave in ways that are harmful to our children. You can't see into my house, and witness the things I do and say on a daily basis. Even if you could, you'd probably tell me (like those who can and do see into my home) that I'm doing a really good job raising my son. And I'd probably tell you the same if I had my blog-scope linked up to your homes.
It's just my own insecurity, and seeing a written reminder to pay attention to myself, my own actions that prompted that post. Whether you found it helpful, meaningful, or a load of crap, I thank you for your comments. They are always ALL helpful, and appreciated, and eagerly looked forward to.

totally a banana, right?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fever Dreams

I went to bed last night with a fever and had a dream that I worked at the North Pole with Santa Claus. Really. What does this mean? Anyone? Please? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I also went to bed with the book Toymaking with Children, by Freya Jaffke. I love this book. Yes, it is about making toys with and for children - in a Waldorf-schooly kind of way - but it is also about our responsibilities as the parents and teachers of our children. My favorite passage appears a mere 3 pages into the text of the book:

"One should never forget that one's actions and the manner in which one acts, may have a profound effect on children... ...The fact that the child learns through imitation means that adults should behave, in the presence of the child, in a manner worthy of imitation."
The thing is, I know that the above statements are true, and good, and come from a very well meaning place but I am sitting here at the computer trying to type this post while my son plays by himself in the living room because I have told him that I am busy and he needs to entertain himself for a while. Is this behavior "worthy of imitation?" It can take me a painfully long time to write what I feel is a "meaningful" post. The whole time I feel like I am constantly shooing Ben away in fits of increasing impatience and frustration. This book is about "Toymaking with Children," OK, ie "Spending Quality Time with Your Kid." I want to read and absorb all the goodness of this book, and I want to pitch it out the window onto the compost heap. There have been interruptions during the writing of this post. Earlier this morning Ben asked me how old he was. "5" I said. "Still 5?" "Yep. Well, 5 and a half. You're more than 5 but not quite 6." Ben is playing with Cranium Cadoo - a "big kid game" - today because he is a big kid, more than 5. He was only allowed to take this game out after putting away the grown ups Cranium game set which he had spread out over the floor. I managed to take whatever impatience and frustration I was feeling out of my voice when he announced that he could not put the cards away by himself because he would be "too exhausted." "I will not do something for you just because you are too bored to do it yourself. I won't do it just because you think putting the game away isn't as fun as taking it out and playing with it." I then patiently and without condescension showed him how to put the cards away properly: their feet need to be on the bottom of the box, their faces looking at you. When you've put them all away the card box needs to be put away in the big box. I left him to this task and returned to the computer. A few minutes passed and he approached (my throne) with a picture he drew on one of the games drawing tablets. "Look what I drew!" (crescent shape with a line down the middle) "WOW! That is GREAT!" (really, he draws very little, and never with much detail, so this was a truly enthusiastic response from me) "Do you know what it is?" "Well, I think it looks like a moon, what does it look like to you?" "It's a banana!" "Ben! It is a banana! A really good banana!" And it really is a great banana likeness. "Did you put all the cards away?" "Uh huh." I got up and walked, followed by Ben, into the living room. He did it. He put all the cards perfectly away in their box. He didn't gripe or grumble about it, and I was so impressed that I helped him put the rest of the pieces in the box and store it away again. I am trying to teach him about taking responsibility for his actions. Then I wonder, am I somehow projecting this boredom, this impatience? Is this imitation? I know that patience is a constant struggle for me. One of my own parents has no patience for children much past the time they learn to talk, more precisely when they learn "No." Acting and speaking in impatient tones is a knee-jerk reaction, but it is not a birthright. Behaviors can change. I am changing. And I will hopefully behave in a manner worthy of imitating often enough that Ben won't be left with this tangled mess to unravel with his own kids. A while back, Ben told me about something he overheard at school. There is a boy in his class who has a learning disability. Ben overheard the para assigned to this boy call him a "bad boy." "What happened?" I asked "Well, he took all the toilet paper off of the roll in the bathroom." I can tell you I am shaking even as I write this. In two weeks I have my spring conference with his teacher (not the one responsible for that comment) and you'd better believe that I will be bringing this up. I told Ben that this boy is not bad, that maybe he did something that he should not have done, maybe he made a mistake, but making mistakes doesn't mean you're bad. Behave in a manner worthy of imitation I want to stencil that on a wall, BIG, where I will see it every day.