• February 22, 2017

    February Round Up

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    I hate to say it, but this month really sucked, ya’ll.  Work has been incredibly stressful and after being out sick for a week, it became that much more stressful.  Right.  Plus, I was sick forever which is never fun.  Because of it, I had to miss out on plans with friends, a couples massage with my hubby for Valentines, book club, and I was still sick on his birthday too so he ended up having to cook for himself and was still sleeping in the guest room in hopes of self preservation.

    *sigh*

    I am trying to find the light, though, and focus on what good there has been this month.  Because of my illness, I was able to read a lot.  My books this month were Spook by Mary Roach, Bonk by Mary Roach, and I’ve started the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  Clearly, I really enjoy Mary Roach’s snarky, scientific writing.  She’s provocative, honest and real which I found so refreshing that I just kept looking for her books.  She does have a couple I still haven’t read, but by the end of the month I was ready for a change.  Outlander is spectacular.  I’ve seen the television show already and thoroughly enjoyed it – so far the book and show line up quite well with each other, but, of course, the book is better.  I am loving the insight and thoughtfulness that the book is able to provide, something television and film rarely really get right.

    I also spent a lot of time listening to music.  Not just any music, though, Broadway music.  Specifically, the soundtrack to Hamilton.  Clever, fun, informative, and relatable are not words I ever thought I’d attribute to anything about early American history… but Hamilton does it!  Someday, I will see the show.  Probably a mediocre band of performers from a local theater group, but I will see it.  And I will know every song by heart when I do.  Probably because it’s the only thing I’ve listened to all month.

    Before getting sick, hubster and I did make it to the movies to see Hidden Figures.  I loved everything about this movie – the characters, the set and costumes, the story, the significance of a story like this in times like this…  So. Good.  If you haven’t see this yet, go now!  Take your daughters, your sisters, your mom… any woman you can find (men, I suppose, should also see it.  It’s just so, so important for women to see right now).

    I have also discovered a new snack food that I am super obsessed with.  Harvest Snaps are surprisingly amazing.  I picked up a couple bags on a whim when I was grocery shopping and fell in love.  Or, in obsession.  They have the consistency of a Cheeto, but don’t have all the nasty artificial crap on them.  My favorite flavors are the tomato basil lentil beans and the lightly salted snap peas.  Mmm…. so yummy.  And if you try really hard, you can convince yourself they are healthy.   *grin*

    Finally, now that I am feeling better, hubster and I are working on making up for missing his birthday and Valentine’s Day!  We’ll be making fondue and eating cake all weekend long! It’s not quite the same, but at least there is cake!

    And there you have it!  February was hard but not wholly unpleasant.  Just remember to look for the good things even when you’re not feeling the good things.  <3

  • February 8, 2017

    Manly Valentine’s Ideas

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    I don’t know how your man feels about Valentine’s Day, but mine hates it.  It’s not that he doesn’t love me or want to show it, but the idea of being made to spend a ton of money or make some grand gesture just for the sake of a holiday makes him crazy.  He’s not really a sappy kind of guy… very sweet, but not sappy.  This is a little unfortunate because I like the idea of a day dedicated to thinking about love and the person you love.  So, to help you ladies who know what I’m talking about, I’ve come up with my top 5 ideas for a Valentines Day that is romantic, and manly, enough to please everyone.  *grin*

    1. Steak Dinner

    Food is the way to every man’s heart and what could be more manly than a steak dinner?  Of course, if he’s a vegetation or doesn’t enjoy steak, you should probably think about substituting this with whatever his favorite food is.  Whatever you choose, you can make a special meal yourself (or, even better, together!) or you can reserve (in advance!) a seat at a favorite restaurant.

    2. Gift basket with his favorite beer/cider and snacks

    Remember how food is the way to a man’s heart?  Well, I’m pretty sure snacks and booze are a close second to an all out meal for most guys.  Ideas for things to include: a bottle or two of beer or cider, a growler with a coupon for a fill, and snacks (jerky, cookies, mixed nuts, dark chocolate, etc.).

    3. Massage

    Pretty much everyone I know enjoys a good massage – whether you send him to a professional (or go together with him as a date) or give him a more intimate experience yourself, he’ll enjoy being nice and relaxed!

    4. Something from his favorite movie/show/book/comic

    If you’re looking for something a little more tangible – something you can actually wrap up and give to him – you might look to his fandoms.  Search for artwork, Pop Figures, or t-shirts/hoodies that reflect his favorite characters.  Etsy is a great place to find this kind of gift.

    5. Something to support his hobby

    Look to what he spends his time on.  Things like art supplies, games or game accessories (eg: headphones, miniature figures, manuals, dice, etc.), gym stuff/sports gear, and fishing/hunting supplies will be a big hit.

    The most important thing about Valentine’s Day is to pay attention to your fella and do something nice that reflects his interests.  I don’t know any men who love red and pink hearts or fancy, overpriced flowers… so rather than getting wrapped up in the commercial side of the holiday, get wrapped up in things that will show you’re genuinely supportive of him and his stuff.  And if he’s any kind of decent guy, he’ll happily do the same for you!

    <3

  • December 28, 2016

    December Round Up

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    Whelp, looks like I managed to miss most of December, huh?  *sigh*  My goal was to have a homemade Christmas, which we did… but I totally underestimated how much time that would consume!  So, here we are with the monthly round  up and I’ll try to touch on everything we enjoyed this past month!

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    nativity

    As soon as Thanksgiving was over (ok, ok, ok… a little, teensy bit before it was really over) I pulled out all of my Christmas decorations and went to town on our house.  And since I felt like we needed a little extra cheer this year, I found a pencil tree to put in our entry way too!  So.  Two trees.  I threatened to put up a third, but lost the oomph to do it.  Ah, well, there’s always next year, eh?

    little-tree

    big-tree

    2015

    Then it was time to get started on my Homemade Christmas goal from my 30 before 30 list!

    ornaments-in-progress

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    The first craft I started was these beautiful Nordic inspired ornaments.  These became gifts for family and friends and were a lot of fun to make!  We also decorated our own home with them – we tried to stick to a red and white theme this year and they added something really special on the tree.

    cookies

    In addition to ornaments, we gave friends and family Christmas cookies.  I made so. many. cookies.  And I learned how to use a cookie press (I think I need one of my own now…) for Danish vanilla cookies.  Oh, and the bread!  I made eggnog bread  and monkey bread for Christmas morning!  I was in the kitchen a lot this December!  *nods*  So glad my folks took care of us for Christmas dinner!

    crafty-nativity

    Another craft project I worked on was this beautiful nativity.  I’ve always been frustrated that I can’t find a realistic nativity with Middle Eastern people – Jesus was not white, ya’ll!  Anyway, I loved the concept of the silhouettes, so that solved it all for me!  :)  Click here for full instructions and info on where to get the vinyl designs.  The last step is to spray the glass with Frosted Glass spray paint stuff… but it’s been so cold this December, I was afraid the temperatures would ruin the paint.  Next year, it’ll be frosty glass!

    socks

    Another favorite thing I did this month was the Secret Santa at work.  I always get too into it, but it’s really fun to spoil one of the amazing women I work with and let her know how much I appreciate her!  And I’ll admit, I kind of like being spoiled by someone else too!  Anyway, the most hilarious gift I received this year was socks with bandanna wearing corgi’s on them.  So silly – I really love them!  I think Ollie approves too…

    ollie

    I didn’t have a lot of time for things other than all the crazy Christmas shenanigans, so I didn’t really consume much media.  I did make it out to see Fantastic Beasts  and Where to Find Them early in the month and Rogue One the weekend it came out.  I also caught Hairspray Live on NBC and I read one book for book club – Yes Chef, by Marcus Samuelsson.  We stayed home a lot and watched old Christmas movies while I worked on crafts too, so that was fun.

    frosty

    And there you have it!  I’m pretty sure that’s all I’ve got for this month!  Sure felt busier than it looks like it was… but I learned my lesson!  I will start Christmas crafts way earlier next year!  I hope you enjoyed your holidays this year and felt the love of friends and family.  Best wishes for a safe and happy new year – see you in 2017!

  • November 30, 2016

    November Round Up

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    Ok, ya’ll, I am not gonna lie.  I am sooo tired right now!  November is kicking my tush this year with the stuff and the friends and the other stuff and everything.  Ugh!  I suppose it’s really a good thing that I’m tired, though, because it means that I’ve been busy.  I’ve spent time with friends and family.  I’ve gone out and stayed in and started some fun projects!  So, despite my tiredness (and lame-o lack of pictures), I want to share my November with you!

    The month started out very stressful and mentally/emotionally exhausting with the elections and news and everything that went with it.  I was convinced that the world was going to end no matter who won and who would be there to pick it all up and put it back together again?  *sigh*  I certainly don’t feel good about what happened and I am not in any way comfortable going forward… but I think I’ve moved from depression into the acceptance part of the grief stages.  It’s a wary and tired and sad acceptance and in no way means that I accept the bad and terrible things that will come from this decision… but it’s a place where I can at least stop thinking about it for a little while and feel ok.

    To distract myself from the pain and fear, I read a lot this month.  And I read a lot about amazing, powerhouse women (weather they would agree with me on that assertion or not, I don’t know).  The first book was  I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai.  That woman… dang.  Talk about an inspiring message that taught me that even little girls can make a difference in the face of terror.  No matter how insignificant you think you might be, Malala teaches us that you can be so much more.  Oh, God, how appropriate.  The second book was Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes.  Aside from the rich and famous aspects of her life, I actually found that I identify a lot with Shonda.  Introverted, unsure, and just brave enough to try to do better, Shonda spoke right to my dorky little heart.  And the last book I read in November was Buffering by Hannah Hart.  I had no idea how deep her hurts and struggles ran.  She talks in her YouTube videos from time to time about not being accepted by her super religious father, but there is so much more.  Ugh.  And yet, Hannah is giving and cheerful.  She has moved past her past and intentionally works to make the world a better place.  Seeing a theme here yet?  *grin*

    Let’s move on now to some more powerhouse women that I spent time with this month.  Hubby and I went to see Moana in theaters on Thanksgiving day.  It was so good!  Such a beautiful message of self discovery and following your passions!  I wish I’d had more role models like her when I was a little girl!  Not only was the story great, but the animation and art were gorgeous too!  Love, love, love!  And my TV pick for the month was Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.  I loved the show when I watched it start to end in my early 20′s and I loved the revisiting of all the characters now!  I know it wasn’t a perfect telling, but I really liked to see where everyone ended up, even in their imperfections.  Grief can do that, you know?  Throw you off track until you feel like you’re drifting and struggling to find your way back… so. good.

    Moving on to more traditional things now, we’ve entered the holiday season of 2016.  Thanksgiving was sort of uneventful for my family.  Hubby and I went to see Moana and ate tacos on Thanksgiving day.  We went over the weekend for a slightly more traditional meal with my parents which was very nice.  Nobody talked about politics (not once!) and it was actually quite relaxing.  Yay!  And in the midst of all of this, I also started decorating for Christmas and started several Christmas crafts.  I love Christmas and my darling hubby indulges me by helping put up decor and letting me take over the house with craft supplies.  It’s wonderful.  I can’t say too much, though, because I want to devote more time and focus to it in some posts next month (so stay tuned!).

    And now, I fear, this wall of text will drive you all away!  Please don’t go!  Or, at least, don’t be afraid to come back!  Hopefully I will be able to share more pictures and such next time.

    Happy Holidays!

  • November 23, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Aloha, Mindfulness, and Meditation

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    Welcome to my third and final post about my Hawaiian vacation!  I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the beautiful island of Maui with me this month!  You know, I’ve always heard people say that Hawaii is a special place.  I always assumed that they meant it was beautiful and fun and a good place for a vacation.  While these things are all true, there is really something special about that place.

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    ocean

    While visiting, I spent as much time as I could learning about the history and culture of Hawaii.  I talked to a few locals, including some fabulously interesting Uber drivers, and I feel like I really gained so much from their insight.  You see, Hawaiian culture is incredibly inclusive, respectful, and spiritual – something I think the mainland needs a big lesson in right now.

    lei

    friend

    It seemed like everything done and everything said had special meaning and history.  People would go out of their way to help or to share a smile with you.  This was at the resort, restaurants, shops, tours, car rides… literally everywhere I went.  People were so happy to share their culture and stories with me, it was really wonderful!

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    You’re probably familiar with “aloha” meaning both hello and goodbye?  That is true, but it also conveys respect and love and spiritual connection.  One tour guide explained that native Hawaiian language has limited words and many words are combinations of words, so “alo” is like the uplifted face – the connection you have with another person or god or nature, and “ha” is like your life breath – your spirit and being.  So, “aloha” is that respectful, spiritual connection to people, to god, to nature, to… everything.  And remember in Lilo and Stitch when Lilo says that “ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind”?  That is true, but ohana also extends to all Hawaiian people.  And notice that “ha” also shows up in ohana?  They put caring for the whole community very high on their list of priorities.

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    Every encounter I had while in Maui was extremely positive and I could feel the energy of the people around me.  Once away from other tourists, I could sit and think and absorb the good vibes that I’ve only ever felt in Hawaii.  I took as much time as I could to meditate on the things people told me, to really feel their words.  One gentleman I met spent a good bit of our conversation encouraging me to bring Aloha to the mainland – to spread their love and peace to a nation that is in turmoil and feeling so much hate right now.  I hope I’ve done this… I hope people meet me and feel loved and respected.  I hope I don’t lose the lessons I learned  in Hawaii in the coming months and years.  And, while I don’t necessarily expect that you really get what I am trying to convey by reading these words alone, I do hope that you will also go out and be a light to your community.  Connect with your life breath and treat every relationship as sacred.

    jellyfish

    sunset

    Peace.

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  • November 16, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Road to Hana

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    Our second full day in Hawaii was the busiest by far.  My friend had to attend classes all day, so I met up with a tour group and went on the Road to Hana.  For those who are not familiar, the Road to Hana takes you along the less populated Eastern side of Maui.  There are about 620 curves on this road and much of it is one lane or so narrow that two cars passing must pass within inches of each other.  I do not recommend driving this road on your own – the tour group was lovely and not half as terrifying as if I’d gone alone.

    On the tour, we saw rain forest, waterfalls, and rainbow eucalyptus trees.

    waterfalls

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    We stopped at the Ke’anae Peninsula where we saw a church that was built in 1856 and was the sole surviving building of a tsunami in 1946.  As I approached the church, I felt so glad that I was almost alone because I could feel that the place was holy.  There was a peace there that I haven’t felt in many other places… I could have sat there for hours.

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    graveyard

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    ghost

    Our next stop was Wai’anapanapa State Park where I explored a sacred black sand beach and a magical lava cave where legend has it a Hawaiian princess hid from her abusive husband.  When he found her, killed her in the cave – now the pools in the cave fill with tiny red shrimp  and the water looks like blood which locals say it’s a reminder of the princess.

    black-sand-beach

    cave-enterence

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    Farther down the road was the Haleakala National Park where I was able to explore the cliffs, waterfall, and Oheo pools.  I went for a short hike which was so beautiful and green – I wanted to stay forever.

    ocean

    overlook

    7-pools

    water-fall

    The last stop was at the Palapala church which was built in 1857 and is where Charles Lindbergh is buried.  It was beautiful, but didn’t have the same holy feeling as the Ke’anae church did.

    lindburgh-church

    lindburgh-grave

    The last portion of the trip was on a terrible, terrible road.  It was so bumpy, my fitbit registered 3,000 steps while I was sitting in the van!  Our guide told us that the locals don’t want to repair the road – they prefer rough driving over having tourists crowding them.  I think I agree.

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  • November 9, 2016

    Hawaiian Vacation: Resort and Luau

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    Did ya’ll remember to vote yesterday?  Did you cling to your tv/radio/social media to follow every second of the tally?  Well I did and I’ve got to say, I am ready for a break from the politics and drama and fear and sadness… I’m ready to go back to Hawaii.  Since that isn’t really possible, though, let me take you on a little trip down my memory lane and you can live a little vicariously through my adventure for a while!

    mermaid

    My friend and I went to Maui and stayed at the Grand Wailea resort.  She was there for a work conference and I was just lucky to get to tag along.  The resort was the fanciest, most beautiful place I’ve ever stayed.  We had a ground floor room with a view of the ocean and it was perfection!

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    The first night we were there we went to a luau.   I felt a little strange asking native people to put their culture on display in such a commercial setting, but I did enjoy the dancing and the stories that were told.  It’s amazing to watch!

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    ribbon-dancer

    The second day we had to do some conference things and I didn’t get too many pictures.  It was pretty laid back and I got to touch the ocean for the first time in my life!  It’s so weird to me that some people grow up playing in the vastness of the ocean without a second thought.  I felt sure it would swallow me up if I stayed too long.

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    There is a small path at the resort that is lined with trees and plants that are all fruit producing which are maintained organically.  Because of this, you can literally just pick what you like and eat it right off the tree!  So, we had a little harvest party on our walk and a very kind man helped us reach the too tall star fruit.  It was glorious!

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    Another day we were there, I dragged my friend to a dedicated gluten free restaurant where I ate way too much.  I haven’t had fried food in 10 years… so this was amazing and horrible all at the same time!

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    I hope you’re enjoying my pictures and stories.  Check back next week for more of my trip!

  • April 20, 2016

    Top 5 Ways to go Greener Right Now!

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    Happy Earth Day!  I love this day so much!  It’s an important day and a good reminder of the fragility of the earth and our part in that.  It’s an opportunity to search out new ways to use resources wisely and conserve what we do have.  So, I’ve compiled a list of 5 really easy ways we can make the world a better place and care for our home.   Now, go forth and challenge yourself to do these things on a regular basis!

    1. Use reusable cloth shopping bags

    This is a no-brainer!  Nobody needs hundreds of paper and plastic bags floating around their homes, so opt for reusable cloth bags instead.

    2. Frequent local businesses – grocery co-ops and farmers markets

    Shopping locally isn’t just good for local businesses!  By purchasing locally made items, you cut down on emissions from transporting things across the country and world.

    3. Ride a bike or take the bus

    Again, you can help cut down on vehicle emissions in your area.  If you bike, you can also get in some good exercise!

    4. Turn off lights, electronics, and faucets when not in use

    This is another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take this simple step!  If you already do this, take the next step and unplug things you’re not using!  Use a power strip with an on/off switch and shut things down when you go to bed every night.

    5. Bring your own travel mug on your coffee runs (some shops even offer discounts for this!)

    This can’t always be pre-planned for (I usually end up at coffee shops on a whim, not out of habit or planning), but if you do have a regular habit of going to out for your coffee, it’s totally do-able!

    Park

    If you already do some of these things, way to go!  You’re conscious of the Earth’s fragility and you’re making a difference!  Sometimes, though, we’re limited with what we can do (for instance, I live in a place where the bus doesn’t run and it’s too far to bike, so I have to drive to work), so I’d love to know what other things you do to live a green life!  Please, share your thoughts and strategies in the comments!

  • March 23, 2016

    Throwback Thursday on a Wednesday: Easter Edition

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    Happy Easter, friends!  I hope you feel especially close to your family and friends this season!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about my family traditions and things that were meaningful to me in my younger days.  Easter was never a very religious holiday in my house – we didn’t go to church on Sundays and that didn’t change on holidays.  Instead, I would hunt Easter Eggs and enjoy some form of lovely breakfast with my parents.  When I was done searching out eggs, I’d beg my folks to hide them again and again and when they tired of my little game, I’d toss them all over the yard (if there wasn’t still snow on the ground) and hunt them myself.

    Along with the little candies and pennies hidden in the plastic eggs I would hunt, my parents usually would give me a little gift or two.  As you can see in these pictures, I must have gotten a new teddy bear, tricycle, and coloring book that year:

    Easter

    Now, as an adult, the holiday takes on different meaning and different purpose for me.  I still feel lost in this season and no closer to God than when I started my little project for Lent (actually, I never even finished my project… I don’t really know what happened), but I am trying to keep faith and seek out the good in it.

    I hope you find renewed hope and peace in this season, no matter what you believe or don’t believe.  I hope you feel close to your life’s purpose and confident in your place in the world.  I hope you worship what you choose with all your heart and know that you alone are enough – you alone are wonderful.

  • March 16, 2016

    Easter Eggs

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    Dying eggs is my most favorite Easter tradition and reminds me of quality time I had with my mom and a good friend of ours while I was growing up.  I don’t remember how my mom’s friend got involved, probably because her boys had outgrown the tradition, but she became an integral part of our celebration.  It has now been years since I last dyed an Easter Egg, but it’s such a beautiful tradition, so I decided to learn a little more about the history behind it all and try my had at naturally coloring some eggs!

    My research has shown me that, like Christmas, many Easter traditions were borrowed from pagan celebrations and repurposed into something new.  Eggs symbolize fertility and rebirth, so early Christians adopted them as a symbol for Christ’s resurrection.

    Understanding the coloring part of the tradition is a little less obvious as there are many different theories as to how it all got started.  Some believe eggs were decorated simply to beautify them in celebration of Lent coming to an end – eggs were not allowed during Lent.  Other’s believe Mary had eggs at the crucifixion and Jesus’ blood dripped on them – coloring them red – and so we color eggs red in remembrance of his sacrifice.  Other legends claim that Mary had the eggs with her and they miraculously turned red when she saw the risen Christ or, alternatively, when she told someone he had risen and he replied that Christ had no more risen than her eggs were red, so they turned red.

    Whatever the historical reason, I enjoy the tradition because it reminds me of home, of simple joys, and of familial closeness.

    Now, on the “show” part of this little show and tell!  *grin*  Because we try to eat cleanly and don’t buy dyes or foods containing dyes, we were determined to try and color some eggs naturally this year!  I didn’t have the time or desire to test lots of different recipes – frankly, I don’t even really like hard boiled eggs all that much – so we’re going to try good old Martha Stewarts recipes out and see what happens!  *grin*

    We decided to try to achieve pale yellow, light blue and chartreuse for our eggs.  There are a lot of other colors that require different ingredients and techniques listed on the website, so I would encourage you to check it out!

    Following the instructions given, we simplified them a bit and came up with the following:

    Pale Yellow: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 3 tablespoons turmeric to a boil.  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Turmeric

     

    Light Blue: Bring 1 quart water, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, and 4 cups chopped cabbage to a boil (add more water and vinegar in their correct proportions if needed to cover the cabbage).  Once it has boiled, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain dye into a bowl and place already hard boiled eggs into solution and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Cabbage

     

    Chartreuse: Use the dyes already used for pale yellow and light blue.  Soak eggs in the turmeric dye for 30 minutes and remove.  Then, place in the cabbage dye briefly – about 5 minutes.

    Coloring-Eggs

     

    Eggs

    Pro Tip: When removing the eggs from the color, pat them dry with a paper towel – don’t rub!  If you rub too much, the color will come off!

    Expect a bit of variation with your eggs.  I don’t know what makes the color stick or not stick, but some defiantly turned out better than others and they were all done the same.

    Cabbage, turmeric, eggs, and vinegar all stink, so try to plan your egg dying time for when you can have an open window!  Otherwise your house will stink and everyone will wonder what kind of mess you’re making for dinner!

    I hope ya’ll give this little project a try!  I was very pleasantly surprised by the vibrancy of the colors and how easy it all actually was.  Way more interesting and fun (as an adult at least… though, you could totally turn this into a mini science lesson for your kids) than the little kits you can buy!

    Easter-Eggs