Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Easter is just around the corner and snowdrops, sourgrass and irises are stretching their petals to call for warmer days. At home, why not try these easy and budget-friendly spring and Easter egg crafts to kick off your festivities and celebrate spring with earth-friendly activities? No plastics or chemicals are needed for these cute guys–only easy kitchen or garden staples and young hands ready to get messy.
Egg candle, a light-up twist on your morning eggs.
I love candles and whenever they burn out, I’m always left with some wax or paraffin at the bottom of the container. Ditto with birthday candles – I never let them melt until the end. I’m not even mentioning romantic dinner candles that I always replace when they’re less than an inch high. As a result, I’ve saved a fair amount of wax in various drawers and I’m going to use them to make brand new egg candles to celebrate spring!
1. Here’s what you need: candle stubs, old birthday candles, bits of wax. Candle wicks (re-use the ones from old birthday candles if you remove them with tweezers when you melt the birthday candles). Hollow eggshells with the top part removed , rinsed and patted dry (go Sunday brunches!). Egg carton or egg holders. Tooth picks. Scotch tape. Aluminium foil.
2. To make the candles: Assemble all the wax you plan to melt in a double boiler (or 2 old pans) and simmer it slowly until all the wax is melted. While the wax is melting, assemble all eggshells in egg cartons and turn them over. Tape a small square of aluminum foil over the bottom hole to “plug” the egg. Now turn them right side up. Cut lengths of candle wick and secure it by wrapping one end around a toothpick and balancing the toothpick over the top of the eggshell. Pour the wax into the eggshells and slightly move around the toothpick so the wick drops right in the middle of the melted wax. Some purists might have secured the wick earlier on with a dollop of playdough at the bottom of the egg. Now wait until it gets cold and light up your spring tables with your egg candles!
3. If you want to color the candle – assuming it was white or pale to begin with – you can melt small bits of colored wax crayons with the wax and stir until all the wax is colored.
What would Easter be without chocolate? I know I know, let’s not mention worst-case scenarios. The good news is, you can make your own chocolate eggs at home and save loads on store-bought eggs. Plus, you know what’s inside your eggs and there’s no weird additives. We used to get these eggs in their shell when I was a kid and I loved eating them slowly, cracking the shell bit by bit and eating away at the pure chocolate filling. Yum! Super easy, here’s how.
1. You will need: hollow eggshells, good quality chocolate bars or chocolate chips (about 1/4 cup chocolate per egg), scotch tape, aluminum foil and egg carton.
2. Here’s how: Start by breaking all the chocolate in small pieces in a double boiler (or a small pan inside a bigger pan half filled with water) and melt it slowly over low heat (that’s important), stirring with a spatula. While the chocolate is melting, assemble all eggshells in egg cartons and turn them over. Tape a small square of aluminum foil over the bottom hole to “plug” the egg. Now turn them right side up. When the chocolate is melted, remove it from the boiler. Now you need to pour it inside the egg without a total mess. I transferred the chocolate to a small melamine bowl with pour spout and held it an inch above each egg as I filled. With the rubber spatula, I made sure none of the chocolate was wasted. Let the egg cool down and set at room temperature – about 4 hours. Keep in a cool place until use.
3. Alternatives: rather than a solid chocolate egg, some people like to jazz up the filling. You can fill your eggs with a chocolate ganache. Martha Stewart recommends for a semisweet ganache, to use 2 cups heavy cream and 1 pound semisweet chocolate. For milk-chocolate or white-chocolate ganache, use 1 1/4 cups heavy cream and 1 1/4 pounds milk or white chocolate. Bring cream just to a boil, then pour over finely chopped chocolate into a medium bowl. Let stand 5 minutes; stir and pour inside the eggs.
Inspired by the book Teenie Tiny Gardening, this craft activity is perfect for small hands and a fun way to use eggshells as planters for miniature plants or seedlings. It’s a great incentive to go out with your child and select herbs, moss or seeds for tomatoes or peas to plant on your windowsill. Think of it as inviting spring on a miniature scale.
1. Here’s what you need: knife, eggs, pin, potting mix, plants or seeds.
2. Here’s you plant: Start by cutting the top of each egg with the knife and pour out the contents (save them for an omelet!). Rinse the eggshells thoroughly and with the pin (or needle), make a few small holes in the bottom of the eggs for drainage. Spoon a little potting mix in each egg until slightly above half way. Add your herb/plant/moss or seed and top up with a little more potting mix. Water and wait – voila!
Teeny Tiny Gardening by Emma Hardy is published by Cico Books and is available from www.cicobooks.com. I received a copy of the book – which my girls love – for a review to be published next week.
Egg-dying is always a big hit at our house but it’s even more fun when we can use kitchen staples to make our own natural dyes. Yes, just like our crafty ancestors used to do in the Middle Ages, except we got different choices today since more plants and veggies are available year-round. The colored eggs you’ll get won’t be as bright as when you use chemical dyes but the coloring part is a great kitchen science experiment. Who knows – your kids start with eggs, they could be dyeing their own tee-shirt tomorrow. Or not:)
Here’s how to color eggs naturally.
1. Start by boiling hard as many eggs as you’ll need. I usually do 2 dozens to bring to an Easter egg hunt. If you hesitate between white, brown, blue or yellow eggs, I say white eggs will be easier to color but it’s your choice. You can also empty out the eggs (here’s how) and use the eggs for a big family omelet, keep the hollow shells for your dyeing activity.
2. To make natural dyes, chop up the vegetables you’ll be using, put them in a pan and cover them with enough water to cover the dye stuff and reach an extra inch. Let simmer for an hour or leave overnight if you want a deeper color. Strain and add the fixator: a part white vinegar for 4 parts liquid vegetable dye, a part salt for 16 parts liquid berry dye. As far as quantities, a rule of thumb is don’t be shy and use a lot of veggies or berries. Now the colors you can obtain are as follows:
3. To dye, there are 2 ways. You can cold dye the eggs and let them steep for as long as possible. Remove with a spoon and pat dry with a kitchen cloth or let dry in the egg carton, handling as little as possible to avoid leaving finger marks on the shells. You can also hot dye the eggs by boiling them in the natural dye. I’d recommend this method for deeper colors and raw eggs. Bear in mind that the longer you steep, the more intense the color will be.
4. To make designs, your children can draw what they want with white wax crayons before dyeing. The crayoned part won’t pick up the color. To get a tie-dye effect – that works only with the cold dye – use rubber bands all around the eggs.
Have some egg-cellent fun trying these out!