Easter

Disorganised Easter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Can you believe Easter will be here in less than a week? It's so early this year! Last year I was all over the Easter craft, and loving it. If you'd like to learn a wonderful, natural (easy!) way of dying eggs and creating beautiful botanical prints on them, like these below, here is a post I wrote about how to do that, last year. I hope we find the time to do this again!

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Things are a lot more chaotic in the Easter preparation stakes this year, with Mr B having been overseas since late Feb, plus  photo-shoots to complete for my book, on top of the normal parenting-work-life roles, so I've decided to forego a lot. I've cancelled the roast-lamb-for-friends party that we usually host on Easter Sunday, and I am sorry to say that at the time of writing, there has been no Easter craft whatsoever going on around these here parts.

I did however feed my kids hot cross buns for afternoon-tea the other day. AND we are going full steam ahead for our second annual family-and-friends Easter egg hunt. This is something I host with two other friends, and last year was such a beautiful time. The photos you see in this post are from that day. We show up in the early morning and deposit literally thousands of eggs in the dew-soaked grass. The Easter bunny makes an appearance, a local cafe delivers coffee for the grown-ups, and there are great big mounds of buttered hot cross buns ready for consumption. This is the one Easter activity I've committed to this year, and I'm probably looking forward to it more than the kids are!

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Oh my little Ralph, filching Easter eggs from the Easter Bunny's basket. I can't believe he wasn't even walking or talking, only this time last year. Where did my baby go?

Make this, naturally: blue & botanical Easter Eggs

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Here's a lovely, last-minute tutorial for dying Easter eggs a stunning blue, and creating pretty, stencilled patterns out of leaves and flowers. Do you want to give it a go? There's still time!

The idea for this project came from my friend Pascale, who does it every year with her children. When they were little, she said, they would gasp with wonder at the patterns created on the eggs. Even now, as almost-grown-up teenagers, they still ask to make these decorative eggs every Easter, hunting through the garden for the "perfect" flower or leaf to create their stencil.

Pascale told me she would use egg dye to create a rainbow array of stenciled eggs, but I couldn't find any in our local shops and from past experience I hadn't had a lot of luck using food dyes. Instead, I found a tutorial for making a brilliant blue dye out of red cabbage, and it turned out to be incredibly easy.

What you'll need:

* Hard-boiled eggs * 1/2 red cabbage * White vinegar * Table salt * An old pair of pantyhose

This project works best on white eggs. If you can't find any, here is a super easy tutorial for whitening eggs, using only white vinegar. If you're going to do this (I did and it worked really well), make sure you hard-boil the eggs before whitening them - it will make them a lot less delicate when you come to rub the colour off.

Step 1: Make your dye

1. Roughly chop up half a red cabbage into pieces about the size of your fist. Toss them into a large saucepan, then pour in two litres of water, and bring it to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, and let it bubble away for half an hour.

2. Strain the now-purple water into a heat-proof bowl, and discard the cabbage. To the water, add four tablespoons of salt and four tablespoons of white vinegar, then stir it around until the salt dissolves.

Step 2: Prepare your eggs

1. While you're making your dye, hard-boil your eggs (and whiten them as per above, if needed)

2. Take a walk around your garden, or along your street. Look for small leaves and flowers in pretty patterns that catch your eye, and gather a little collection to take back inside

3. Cut off pieces of the old pantyhose, about 10 centimetres long each. Tie a knot in one end.

4. Now take one of your leaves or flowers and press them against one of the eggs. Put the egg and plant into the piece of pantyhose, and pull it tight before tying a knot at the other end (see below). Repeat this step for as many stenciled eggs as you hope to make

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Step 3: Wait for the magic to happen

1. Gently submerge your pantyhose-egg in the bowl of dye. You might want to mix things up by submerging some non-stenciled eggs, too, so you have a variety of plain and patterned eggs when you're done

(Pro tip: if your eggs are bit old and you find they're floating, pour the dye into a taller, more narrow vessel - I used a large vase - then once the eggs are all in the dye, lower a piece of cloth over the top. I used a Chux wipe. As the cloth soaks up the dye, it submerges, pushing the eggs down with it without marking or scratching them the way a more solid weight would do)

2. Leave the eggs in the dye for as long as you like. About an hour will give you a lovely, pale, blue. Several hours or overnight will turn them indigo

3. When you take the eggs out, gently cut them out of the pantyhose, and lift away the plant. It should reveal a beautiful, stenciled pattern

4. Place the eggs on a wire cake-rack to dry completely, before using them for your Easter decorations

Two final words of advice:

1. After about 24 hours, the dyed eggs turn from blue to more of a turquoise or aqua. They're still beautiful, but bear this in mind if you're being all strategic with your colour scheme

2. Ideally you'll want to do this project on a warm day with the windows open: our house really stank of cabbage!

Happy Easter dear friends, if this is something you celebrate. What are your plans? We're off to visit family in Bendigo, then helping to host an Easter egg hunt in our local park, followed by a roast lunch for 13 friends in our home, and then a day off on Monday to recover. See you on Tuesday!

Madeleine's diary - the Easter edition

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA easter13 easter7 easter1 easter10 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA easter12 easter3 easter6 easter2 easter11 easter9Day 1, Good Friday 7am: Have woken up thinking about my sister Emily. Daddy said she would be here when I woke up. Must go check. Need to get out of this cot pronto. Mummmy! MUMMMMYYYY!

7:03am: Mummy, you took ages to get here. Is Emmy here? She is? Hooray! She got in at 2am? Well then I imagine she will be ready to play by now. I'll just run down to her bedroom and check. Emmmy! EMMMMYYYYY!

7:06am: I'm a bit over playing the "let's pretend to sleep" game, Emmy. Think I will eat some breakfast instead. Is it Chocolate Egg Day yet? Mummmy? MUMMMMYYYY!

7:07am: Oh listen to that, Harry's awake. I wonder who woke him up.

10:30am: We are going for a walk in the RAIN. This is very exciting. I will wear my rain coat. NOBODY HELP ME I WANT TO CARRY THE UMBRELLA ALL BY MYSELF. Why are complete strangers ducking and weaving away from me?

2:30pm: Hot cross buns are my favourite.

4pm: We are painting eggs. RED! I WANT RED PAINT! Wait, Daddy has blue. That's it, BLUE! I WANT BLUE! Emmy, what colour do you have? Green? THAT'S THE ONE I WANT. I WANT GREEN. Mummy, stop trying to help, I can do it myself.

3.15pm: THERE IS GREEN PAINT ON MY HAND HELP HELP GET IT OFF GET IT OFFFFFFF.

Day 2, Saturday

12pm: Grace and Kiera are here and we are having an Easter Egg hunt. I don't know what that means but I am VERY EXCITED. Aaaaargh this is very excellent, I am going to run as fast as I can on the spot and yell "yeah." YEAH.

12:05pm: We are in the courtyard. There are chocolate eggs here. OH MY GOODNESS THERE ARE CHOCOLATE EGGS EVERYWHERE IN THE COURTYARD I KEEP FINDING THEM EVERYWHERE I LOOK THIS IS THE BEST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME.

12:07pm: FRENZY! FRENZY!

12:10pm: Chocolate Easter eggs are my favourite.

12:11pm - 3:30pm: Chocolate, toys, games, friends. Grace is 11 and she lets me boss and drag her around everywhere I think I will kiss her. Lunch, toys, games, friends. I will drag Grace into the hall and make her pretend to be a puppy with me. Peppa Pig! I SKIPPED MY NAP. BAHAHAHA. Dessert, toys, games, friends. Grace is tired, I wonder why? I will sit on her lap and call her mummy. Chocolate!

4:05pm: I am feeling a little bit delirious. Think I will do a spot of spinning in the lounge room in front of all my friends. I keep falling over. I don't care. Delirious! Frenzy! Frenzy!

Day 3, Easter Sunday

7:03am: CHOCOLATEEEEEEE. The Easter Bunny left chocolate in my bedroom! I am so happy. This is the best morning of my life.

7:08am: WHYYYYYYYY? Why can't I eat my chocolate for breakfast? This is the worst morning of my life.

10:20am: We are walking so that Harry can sleep in the pram and Mummy can get coffee. Why does she always say she needs coffee? I don't understand.

12pm: Mummy and Daddy found the Taco Truck, I found a park with swings and a slide. Harry is still asleep. We are all very happy.

12:03pm: Oh look! I found more Easter Eggs hidden at the bottom of the slippery slide! Hooray!

12:04pm: WHYYYYYYY? Why can't I eat food I randomly found on the ground of a deserted and slightly derelict-looking park?

2:30pm: I'm not even tired I definitely don't need a nap. Oh wow, Daddy is cuddling me on Mummy and Daddy's bed! This is so much fun. Daddy wants to sleep but I will never sleep. I am going to play and make him laugh, it will be so much fu-- zzzzzzzzzz.

4:30pm: Mummy why are you waking us up? I don't want to get up. Ooh a bottle! I will let you give that to me and read me a story while I drink it, if it makes you happy.

6pm: We are going out for a night-time picnic. And Emmy is coming too. This is CRAZY good. We are outside, walking, and it's dark! I can't believe my eyes! It's dark! I must keep reminding Mummy how amazing this is. I will say "Night night!" every few seconds, to make sure she doesn't forget. Now I will tell Emmy "Night night" too, in case she hadn't realised.

6:20pm: The park! The park! I love the park, and now we are in the park. At NIGHT. The park, at NIGHT! Wowwwwww!

7:01pm: We are on our way home. In the dark. At NIGHT. In the dark. We have been in the park. At NIGHT. This is the best night ever. I am never going to sleep again.

ps. Madeleine's previous diary entry

First Easter

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMadeleine's first Easter is waking up to a house that smells like cinnamon and hot cross buns. It is long, exploratory walks into the northern suburbs in slanting sunshine. It's wind that, at long last, admits autumn has arrived and freshens the stale old air. Madeleine's first Easter is crawling like a speed-demon through improvised tunnels on the floor of a public lounge; it's discovering the delights of pumpkin and green beans and carrots; it's a first little tooth shyly peeping up beneath drool-damp gums.

Chasing chickens and rabbits and lambs in a petting zoo. Me catching Madeleine's hand and cautioning "Gentle," as she tries to pull the horns off a very patient little black goat. Belly-laughs; pointy-toe bouncing in Dad's arms; a new sound (or is she calling someone we know?): "NAnnnnnaaaaa."

Madeleine's first Easter is picnics on her great-grandmother's crocheted rug, and oft-thwarted attempts to crawl off the rug and eat the grass. It is a golden chocolate egg (forbidden!) and soft, brown bunny-ears (adorable!) from Aunty Tonia. It is infectious joy, and overwhelming love.

And it is only half done.

Easter! Eggs, buns and feet

Oh you guys, my feet are killing me! Back when I lived in New York, my friend Mish and I would walk every weekend along the Hudson, from Canal Street to up into the 100s, often to the top of Central Park, and back. The first time we did this we were both wearing flip flops and by the end of the walk, we were hobbling like old ladies. We re-christened ourselves with old lady names: Mish became Esme, and I was Mavis. To this day, those are the names we call each other. I lost count of the times Mish would unintentionally introduce me to new friends as Mavis. Call me Mavis today, friends. I'll answer to it. We are back from a day-long exploration deep into the 'burbs of Melbourne (more of this in another post). I wore my pretty little suede ankle-boots, which looked rather nice with my skirt but were NOT intended to be used to pound a pavement for six hours or so.

But that's not actually what I wanted to talk about today. It's Good Friday, so I thought I'd share with you a couple more eggy Eastery projects I've been doing of late. Both involve carefully removing the yolks out of a dozen eggs, just as I did for this hidden message project. Now I have two dozen eggs sitting in pairs in zip-lock bags in my freezer, so you know who to call if you fancy making a quiche.

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A smashing egg-hunt

For the first dozen, I made an Easter game for Emily Rose. I painted the hollowed-out eggs with water-colours, having previously stuck a letter on each egg so that it would work as a stencil that, in the end, spelled out HAPPY EASTER.

Then I filled 11 out of the 12 eggs with confetti, and the 12th egg with gold glitter. I sealed each of the eggs and nestled them back into the carton, so you couldn't tell the glitter egg from any of the confetti eggs. I wrapped them up and posted them to Emily with some simple instructions for a twist on a classic egg hunt:

* Hide the eggs and invite your friends to find them * When all the confetti eggs have been found, smash them over each others' heads * Whoever ends up with a head full of glitter wins the prize

I got the idea here. Pretty cool huh?

Easter1Surprise egg-cakes

For the second dozen I baked baby cupcakes, inside the egg shells. First I submerged the eggs in food colouring (with hot water and vinegar): red, orange, blue, purple, yellow and green. Then I mixed up my favourite chocolate cake. I would have preferred to make vanilla, but I was worried the food colouring would come off on the cake batter and look a bit gross. I piped the cake batter through a little hole in the top of each egg.

It was tricky figuring out how much cake batter to add to the eggs. There are loads of instructions on the Internet for doing this, and most people said they overfilled their eggs. I did, too. It was hard to decide when to stop piping the batter because you couldn't actually see (the hole in the top of the egg was not much bigger than the pipe nozzle). When I pulled the eggs out of the oven, rather than breaking off the overflow, I decided I rather liked the look of it. Instead, I iced it with a kind of snowy lava-looking blob, and topped it with a little candy flower.

I put a dozen of the eggs back into an egg carton and sent Mr B to work with them yesterday. I told everyone to crack the eggs and peel the shell just like they would a hard-boiled egg. Inside, they discovered chocolate cake!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut eggs and chocolate are for Sunday (so you still have time if you want to do something like either of these projects for yourself.) Today was Good Friday and, after my inappropriate footwear-clad 'marathon', I was all "craft-shmaft" and "cooking-schmooking." So we had takeaway fish 'n chips for dinner. And Madeleine approved, after some initial trepidation, of her first ever hot cross bun.

Madeleine1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHappy Easter my dears! I hope you have a wonderful time however you spend it.

The Easter craft challenge #3 - wildflower eggs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a super-cute and incredibly easy Easter craft activity. These little papier mâché eggs are laced with wildflower seeds. Tie them up with a pretty ribbon or a piece of washi tape, nestle them into a decorative nest, and you have a sweet little springtime Easter gift for a friend (even if Easter is an autumnal festival, as it is in Australia). 1. Tear up little pieces of paper and put them in a blender. Pour in enough warm water to cover them, then blend them into mush.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA2. If you are only using one type of seed, mix the seeds into the watery mush (don't blend it any more!), then strain it well. However, I was using three different types of seeds, so I strained my mix first and then separated it into three separate bowls, before adding the seeds. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA3. Roll your seeded mixture into little egg-shaped balls. I made mine about the size of those mini chocolate eggs you can buy in bags. Then rest them on absorbent paper or a tea towel and leave them to dry. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat's it! I used some lovely, patterned tape to decorate the eggs. It will come off easily when my friends are ready to plant the eggs to grow wildflowers from the seeds. I also typed up growing instructions and rolled them into a little scroll to go with the eggs.

This post is the third and final one in a series of Easter craft challenges, sponsored by the good folk at Uni Hill Factory Outlets. They sent me a gift voucher to spend at the Kaisercraft Uni Hill store, and I didn't waste a minute.

* I used some of their fabulous scrap-booking supplies to make pretty mail * I used their rub-on stencils to decorate Easter eggs with hidden messages * Then I used their decorative embellishments (like birds' nests, doilies and pretty paper) to pull the various elements together into lovely boxed gifts for my friends, complete with handmade cards (see below)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI hope my friends like their presents. Happy Easter!

The Easter craft challenge #1 - snail mail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is something so very tactile and satisfying about receiving old-fashioned snail mail in the box, don't you think? There is a wonderful theatre to opening it, not knowing what's inside. And a special feeling, knowing that the sender has taken time to write to me by hand, to pack a parcel, to wrap and post and send it. The fact that mail takes such a long time to arrive (as opposed to the instant gratification of email, phone calls and messaging), and has been through so many hands to get to its final destination, only adds to the romance of the post.

When you receive a parcel from me in your mailbox, it has been on a journey. It has seen places you may never see, and has travelled across mountains and highways and oceans to reach you. The stamps and marks and scuffs that you can see when it arrives are evidence of its adventurous passage toward you across the globe.

Often, I like to draw or paint pictures to embellish the addresses on the mail I send, like these. I also use string and wax and ink stamps to add to a parcel's beauty. (This is for the benefit of both the recipient and all the postal workers who handle it: the woman at my local Post Office loves it when I come in with a new parcel, turning it over in her hands and saying "Oh, lovely," before affixing the stamps.)

But lately I've been exploring other ways to make the mail I send something lovely to look at. And after a recent trip to Kaisercraft at the fabulous Uni Hill factory outlet precinct for inspiration, I came up with some new ideas using collage, stencils and wooden embellishments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey were super easy to make, and I'm really happy with the results. If you want to have a try, just wrap your parcel in plain paper, then have a play. I used PVA glue to attach the wooden and paper collage pieces, although double-sided tape would probably do as well. For pieces that absolutely couldn't fall off (like those containing the addresses!) I reinforced the corners with pretty printed tape. The wooden eggs were plain when I bought them, so I painted them before gluing them on.

Some mail tips for embellishing mail (so that they won't get mad at you at the Post Office):

* Make sure you leave space on the top-right of the parcel for the stamps * If your parcel is going overseas, leave space for the airmail sticker to go on the top-middle or left * If you need to make a customs declaration (most Australian post going overseas requires this), leave a good area on the back to stick the form so it doesn't destroy your lovely artwork on the front * It's a lot easier to send 'fancy' mail if you are sending something with a flat surface, like a book. If your mail is bumpy or squishy, consider putting it in a small box before wrapping it in the brown paper, so you can more easily decorate it * Since you're using paper in place of an envelope, take a few extra steps to be sure it is strong enough to survive the journey. I make sure there are a few layers of paper around my parcel. I also reinforce all the fold-lines of the paper with sticky-tape, leaving nowhere that it could catch or tear. Finally, I put a piece of sticky tape on every corner to protect it from tearing if it bumps around with all the other mail.

I found all the supplies I needed to decorate my mail from the the amazing new Kaisercraft University Hill store. This included PVA glue, printed sticky tape and a craft knife, as well as the following 'features' for each box:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA1: Packet of mini playing cards 2: Packet of Rub Ons - easy-to-use stencils in various designs 3: Packet of "Timeless Tags" - more than 50 pieces of die cut shapes 4: Two packets of three wooden Easter eggs

Coming up next week: Easter eggs with hidden messages inside.

Sponsored by the good folks at Uni Hill factory outlets