Lego Sunblock

My wife and I enjoy playing board games together and are always looking for something new to try. One day, while out shopping, the Lego line of board games caught our eye when my wife saw Sunblock on sale for $10 at a local toy store. Not familiar with the Lego games she read some reviews and thought it was interesting enough to give a try, especially at this low price.

In Sunblock players take turns rolling the dice and taking the action indication which includes: placing umbrellas of different colors on the beach or moving one of several trashcans, the large striped umbrella, or their own beach chair. Whenever a player knocks over any of the umbrellas or is unable to place a new one, they are out of the game, and play continues until only one person is left on the beach.

Game play is deceptively simple and we have found you are competing not only against the actions of other players, who are constantly trying to make the next move more difficult, but also against your own patience and dexterity. Rushing to place or move a piece can result in an umbrella being pushed over and that player being out. Of the dozens of times we have played, only one game has ended because an umbrella could not be placed. The rest of the time we knocked over an umbrella. To win: be careful and take your time.

Simple, fast, and fun are the three words I’d use to describe this game. Sunblock has become one of our first choices when we sit down to play a board game.

Pick up a copy of Sunblock and join the Lego beach party.

Sunblock
Players: 2-4
Ages: 7+
Playtime: 5-15 minutes.

Kids and Gardening

Gardening with children has been one of the great pleasures of the unexpectedly early spring of 2012 that came to Pennsylvania.  This is the first year where both of my youngest children are finally old enough to spend time together in the garden where they can be handled sufficiently by one parent.   As either of my wife or I help the children play and learn about the garden, the other can work on bigger tasks like weeding or moving compost.  After spending much time whispering the gardener’s lament, “There is always next year.”, the garden is finally in a place where we will have what we want while also increasing the amount of quality time we have with our children.

The fun part about having the children out and gardening is how naturally they take to it.  Whether they are digging for dinosaur bones, our very own pair of Dr. Scott the Paleontologist, or helping to transplant strawberries, they don’t need encouragement.

Having spent time volunteering with a local community organization helping to build garden space in Harrisburg, children’s desire to be out, garden, do hard work, all while learning amazed me.  Not only with my own children, but also with those children from the city, there was little need for support on my part.  They only required instructions to start the project and they jumped right in including planting apple trees, hauling mulch, or shoveling manure,

If you want to teach children to garden, the job is made easy for you.  Lead them to a space where they can dig, plant, and grow.  With a little guidance along the way they will take care of the rest.

Sunshine Dill Pickles – make them in your yard!

Perennials waiting to go into the ground

It’s 5:30am here and I’m trying a new posting scedule for Earth to Eats. I’ve been reading The Amish Cook’s Anniversary Book: 20 Years of Food, Family, and Faith
and it has inspired me to try writing early in the day.  This book is an enjoyable read for me and helps me keep my work in perspective.  Reading all about an Amish family who get up at 4am and all they do before leaving for work or school motivates me to get more done.  It is just amazing all they accomplish – and it is important things too like cooking, preserving and keeping their homes clean.  It isn’t watching TV or playing video games.

I made some pickles last week in our front yard.  Yep, in the yard.  I forgot to take a picture of the jar, but they turned out good enough that I want to try them again.  I just put dill in and not garlic and something was definitely missing.  A little too much salt went in too since I didn’t have a gallon jar.  I’ll adjust all that next time.  You can find the recipe here.

I’ve been chatting with some folks from Paperbackswap this week and that is what pushed me to try a different writing schedule here.  The discussions and ideas we are sharing there would benefit so many people if they were put here in this public forum so hopefully I’ll get more posts up.  I especially want to thank Jamie G for chatting with me about frugality and making a better life for our families.  You’ve been inspiring Jamie so keep up the great work!!

Above you see a picture of perennials I purchased at our local flower shop for .99 a piece.  These are the ones she hasn’t been able to sell and it is a great way for us to extend our garden without spending much money.  I got 40 plants for $39 or so and put in a perennial bed the other night.  I need to take pictures of that and explain how I did it in another post.  Yes these plants are pot bound something awful, but if you bring them home and soak them and then break up the root ball they do just fine.  I even picked up one of my favorite plants – lemon verbena.  MMMMMM…..  Not a perennial sadly, but at least I’ll have it till frost.

Must get things moving here.  Hope everyone has a great day.

Springbok Puzzles – blast from my past

Springbok Puzzle Goodie Goodie Gumpdrops!

One of my favorite things to get as a child was a puzzle – especially Springbok puzzles from the Hallmark store.  I always fell in love with the complex and colorful subjects and I loved the way the pieces fit together – kind of unexpected.  On a Salvation Army trip I found several of the smallest sizes puzzles for 50 cents a piece and I picked them up.

Of course when you buy a second hand puzzle you never know if it has all the pieces.  I stole a few minutes when my children were sleeping to put this one together – and it was complete.  What a treat!  I’m putting it aside for me to do again and for the kids to try when they get older.  It is a tricky one which made it all the more fun.

I wasn’t sure if Springbok was still in business so I looked around and found out that they are, but not in the way they were when I was a kid.  You can now order their puzzles online as well as in Hallmark stores.  There store can be found here.  I was also very happy to see their products are earth friendly and made in the US.  You can read the details here.

If you haven’t put a puzzle together in a long time, you really should take the time to do it soon.  It is a very quiet activity that still requires you to use your mind.  The perfect family activity for a rainy day, there is nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment when you put in that last piece.  Springbok offers a family sized puzzle with 400 pieces that has larger pieces on the outside with smaller ones inside offering differing degrees of difficulty for a family to do together.

Marbled Easter Eggs with McCormick Liquid Dye Colors

This was an idea from Bob Keeshan’s Holiday Fun book -see my review here – and I had an extra egg so wanted to give it a try to see if my two year old could do it.  (For those who think that name sounds familiar, Bob Keeshan was better known as Captain Kangaroo – one of my all time childhood favorites.)

Basically you take a folded paper towel and put drops of liquid dye like McCormick onto it and then put the paper towel in a bag.  The child takes a hard cooked egg and puts it in the bag with the paper towel and mushes the towel against it to make spots of color.  I tried it first with just red, but it looked much better with two colors when I added blue.  I used the same paper towel with one color on each side. 

Marbled Egg with Liquid Dye

You are supposed to wet the egg first but I forgot that part and it still turned out OK.  Sort of like sponge painting instead of marbleing.  I am going to attempt this with my two year old but I think she’ll like dipping eggs better – more messy.  We shall see.

Dye Eggs with Kool-Aid

During my natural dye experiment I remembered that you could dye fabric with Kool-Aid so I thought you could probably dye eggs as well.  I mixed one packet of cherry Kool-Aid with one cup of hot water and one Tbls. of vinegar.  I added and egg and this is what I got after 1 minute:

One Minute Cherry Kool-Aid Egg

Pretty impressive and VERY red.  This is what it looked like after 10 minutes:

10 minute Cherry Kool-Aid egg

I do have a few words of warning with this process:

  1. This stains your fingers for about two-three days.
  2. This will stain your counter and anything it comes in contact with that is pourous.
  3. The eggs will absorb a slight amount of the fruit flavor.  I made a deviled egg with this egg and I actually liked the cherry “essence” it had.  If I hadn’t known what it was, I wouldn’t have been able to figure it out – it just was a little something extra.
  4. The eggs may look tie dyed when peeled – but we kinda liked this.  This egg had no visible cracks in it and we still got some color on it. See photo below:

Tie Dyed Egg effect with Kool-Aid

I didn’t have any other colors of Kool-Aid but red, but I’m sure this would work with any flavor/color since it is so concentrated.  If you still have any of the invisible Kool-Aid hanging around that might be interesting to play with.

So while this is not a natural dye by any means, it is very simple and neat for the kids to do.  The fruity smell of the dye and slight fruitiness to the egg afterward might get kids who normally don’t eat eggs to try one.

Natural Egg Dye Experiment Day 4

Blueberry Stain on my counter

I finally found my blueberries at the very bottom of the freezer so my last batch of dyed eggs for this year was blueberry.  I put 1 Cup of frozen blueberries into 1 1/2 C water with 1 T vinegar and boiled them for 15 minutes.  I also stuck an uncooked egg in with them to see what would happen. 

Well, the uncooked egg both cooked and dyed and came out like this:

Egg cooked with blueberries

It looks much more purple in the picture than the grape juice one did, but actually they are very similar in color.  It was a mottled color though and I’m not sure if that was because of how it was dyed or if it was the eggshell itself.

After removing the egg, I strained the blueberries and squeezed out the remaining juice to get my dye.  I dyed an egg for 1, 5 and 10 minutes like all of the other ones.  Here is the final product:

Blueberry dye bath - 10 minutes

The egg was less mottled than the one cooked with the blueberries and it is a little lighter in color.  Still more gray than purple to me, just like the grape juice, but Scott thought it was a nice color.

Since I had one egg left I tried the Turmeric again, this time with 2 tsp of tumeric cooked in 1 cup of water with 1 T vinegar in the microwave for 3 minutes.  While the egg colored up faster at the 1 minute point, the end color was exactly the same as the less concentrated version I tried back on day 1.  A very pretty yellow, just not a rich orange like I was hoping for.  Here’s the egg after 10 minutes:

Turmeric egg at 10 minutes

So that concludes the dye experiment for now.  I think I’ll continue this throughout the year as I often have hard cooked eggs on hand and I have a lot of other dyes I’d like to try.  Right now I’m busy writing up my findings and suggestions for a small ebook we’ll have here to download.  If you look below you can see all the eggs I dyed.

From l-r, top to bottom: beets, turmeric, spinach, paprika, coffee, tea, grape juice, blueberries

I did find that when you put them together like this it was a very unique group of eggs and pleasing to my eye.  Not the garash colors of store-bought dye or Kool-Aid, but definitely neat to look at.

Natural Egg Dye Experiment – Day 3

Paprika looked good but didn't come through

Well, I wanted to finish up all the eggs today but I can’t find my blueberries.  Have to dig in the other freezer.

Today I tried beets, spinach, grape juice and paprika.  All had disappointing results. (I also tried Kool-Aid but that isn’t natural and will get its own post – that one worked great!)

Beets

10 minute eggs, WO egg is WO vinegarI really expected the beets to work well since when I make pickled red beets and eggs they work just fine, but that is with shelled eggs so I’m sure that makes a difference.  I took a can of beets and boiled it for fifteen minutes.  I removed the beets and then split the juice up into two glasses.  I added 1 T of vinegar to the one glass.  This was the only experiment so far where the vinegar made a difference.  The beet egg with the vinegar was darker than the without vinegar egg, but not by much.  This was a very pale pink.

I pulled the beet juice out later in the day and both kinds dyed lightly while cold, but were better warmed.  Not much difference from the first time.

I’m thinking I may cook an egg in with the beets tomorrow to see what happens.

Spinach

Spinach: Glass with Vinegar is on the Right

Well, again I thought this would work better than it did.  Perhaps more spinach is necessary.  I used 2 cups of water and 8 oz of frozen spinach.  I boiled it for 15 minutes and then strained out the spinach in a cloth.  I squeezed the cloth to get the juice out and then divided the liquid in half. (I composted the spinach.)  I added 1 T vinegar to one batch.  I got very little color even at 10 minutes of dye time – pale yellow-green at best.  Not much difference with or without vinegar – eggs almost looked ivory.  I did not keep this one to try again cold because it dyed so badly the first time.  And it smelled.  PU.

Spinach at 10 minutes dye time - bottom one is with vinegar

Grape Juice

This one smelled good cooking

OK, this one just came to me and I wondered what would happen.  I’ve had several shirts ruined with grape juice so I thought maybe it’d make a good dye.  It did.  But the color was scary.  I microwaved two cups of 100% purple grape juice straight from the bottle for 2 minutes each until they were hot.  I added 1 T vinegar to one cup.

Well, the eggs dyed just fine but they turned out gray.  And a little mottled.  I remember that the purples in the purchased dye kits do this too sometimes – have grains of red or blue in them even after the whole thing is dissolved.  My without vinegar egg cracked big time because I dropped it into the cup when I burned my fingers on the juice.  <sigh> The vinegar made a little difference in this egg too, but not substantially.  The juice did not dye well cold but it could be reheated after using with similar results to the original heating. (4/4 update – Scott really liked the way these eggs looked.  He thought they looked purple, not gray so perhaps it is a personal call.  They did look MORE purple when you put them next to the other colors.)

I think these eggs would be wonderful for Halloween with a bright orange egg.  But for Easter, well, I’m just not sold on it.

Grape Juice: The cracked front egg is without vinegar

Paprika

Paprika: Fast Color

I picked up a cheap bottle of Paprika for this project just to see what would happen.  I put 1/4 C of paprika in 1 cup of water and microwaved it for 3 minutes till it was bubbling.  I added 1 T vinegar and dropped in an egg.  Even the 1 minute egg showed some color and at 10 minutes it was definitely – brownish yellow.  I was hoping for red.  <sigh again>  Even the blue crayon was dyed brown with this dye.  Very odd.

Paprika - not red

So, that was day 3.  If I can find my blueberries tomorrow they will make the final dye lot.  If I can’t find them I’ll have to improvise with something else.  I want to wrap this up so we can eat the eggs before they go bad.  Deviled eggs, here we come!

While doing Natural Egg dyeing I remembered Kool-Aid pickles…

Yeah, I know, my brain is a strange place.  I was working on that natural egg dye project and I had an egg dyeing in cherry Kool-Aid (no it is not natural – but it is super-easy and cheap) and remembered an article I had read awhile back in the New York Times about Kool-Aid pickles.  I had wanted to try them and never did.

So I just had a few minutes between lunch and dinner and found the original article here.  Hard to believe it was nearly 4 years ago and I still remember – that was 2 kids ago!  So if you aren’t from the South and have never heard of Koolickles – what some folks call these things – check out the article.  There are good instructions here for making Koolickles.  I’ll be trying this soon and I’ll let you know what MY family thinks.

I’ve completed dying with beets and spinach so when I have a few minutes I’ll write those up.  I also have some notes on the Kool-Aid egg.  Blueberries are the last thing I want to try and then if I still have some eggs left we’ll see what else I come up with.

Stay tuned!

Natural Egg Dye Experiment – Day 1

First Day's eggs (W/O means no vinegar)

I posted earlier that we would like to use natural egg dyes this year for Easter. I didn’t really say what my goals were for this but what I’m looking for are dyes that meet the following criteria:

  1. Are naturally derived: food based if possible
  2. Can be made on short notice: like when it is Saturday night and you realize Easter is tomorrow
  3. Do not require mordants or anything else other than vinegar and the dye substance
  4. Are reasonably priced: sorry Saffron is out for yellow eggs
  5. Will last for more than one day so you can make the dye ahead of time
  6. Can be composted when finished: so as not to waste anything

I know I could have researched all this on the internet, but that really doesn’t fit with my sense of adventure.  I have read about this topic before so did know a few things.  I figured I’d start with what I had on hand and see what I could come up with for orange/yellow.

Carrot Water - doesn't dye

My first attempt failed miserably.  I used grated carrots – 1 C to 2 C water boiled for ten minutes in the microwave.  The water looked orange but in the end did nothing to the eggshell with or without vinegar.

My second attempt was better and has a lot of promise.  I used 1 tsp of Turmeric to 2 C water boiled for 3 minutes in the microwave.  This produced a light yellow color with and without vinegar.  I have it in the fridge now to see if I can use it again.  If you added more Turmeric you would definitely get a stronger color.  I think probably 1/2 T to 1 cup water might be about right, plus 1 T vinegar.  (I’m seeing if that is really necessary like EVERYONE says it is.) UPDATE 4/4:  I did redo this with 2 tsp turmeric to 1 C water and the egg dyed faster but did not get any more color.

I ran out of eggs at this point – mostly we use brown eggs – so I’ll have to work on this again later when we need to restock.  Check back later or subscribe to our feed for other results.  When I’ve got the whole thing pulled together I’ll be publishing an ebook you can download with all my findings to keep on hand when you need emergency egg color.  I hope to have it ready before Easter so you can use natural dyes too this year.

Light Yellow Dye - 1 tsp Tumeric, 2 C water, 1 T vinegar

So we’ve got a yellow.  I’d like to find options for five or six colors and know some for sure colors already like blue/blueberries, red-pink/beets, green/spinach and brown/tea or coffee but I need to see how well they last overnight. Not sure what will come next.

3/31/11 update – The turmeric dye will NOT work straight out of the fridge if you try to keep it overnight.  It DID work after 2 minutes of heating in the microwave and some stirring BUT the results were not as good as what I got with the fresh dye.  The good thing is this one is so easy to whip up you can do it in a couple of minutes fresh.   Also want to warn folks, this dye doesn’t just dye eggs, it stains things – like my counter.  And my kitchen towels.  And my fingers. (Hmm… might be good for fabric dyeing, have to try that in the summer.)

Turmeric stain on my countertop