Setting the Easter table

04/11/2014 3:24 PM

08/06/2014 10:50 AM

The lawns are as green as Easter grass, and fresh signs of growth are uncovered like Easter eggs every time I clean up another patch of leaves (which are a treasure of their own after clumping together over the winter – compost is happening).

While Easter isn’t until next weekend, this weekend’s spring backdrop is perfect for making preparations, as well as for enjoying on its own. Between the clear sweet birdsong that greets me in the morning and the loud yellow forsythia that catches the setting sun, I’m already getting a form of sugar rush from all the beauty.

Tulips will likely be near their peak this weekend at Botanica and at Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, and a daffodil show will fill vases with bright color Saturday at the Minisa Park Shelter.

Read on here and elsewhere in the Home & Garden section for ideas on how to dye your Easter eggs with natural dyes, how to set your Easter table, how to make cheerful vases for your spring blooms or gift-giving, and where to catch garden events this weekend and Easter weekend.

Natural Easter egg dyes

If you’ve ever wanted to try natural plant dyes for your Easter eggs, you can get some new ideas this year from the book “A Garden to Dye For.”

Onion skins, berries, turmeric, beets and red cabbage are among the foods that California author Chris McLaughlin suggests using for coloring eggs. The dyestuff must be edible, because it’s assumed that the Easter eggs will be eaten.

McLaughlin’s book, which will be released Tuesday, has the subtitle “How to Use Plants from the Garden to Create Natural Colors for Fabrics and Fibers” (St. Lynn’s Press). It also covers using plants as watercolor paints and for coloring play dough.

While you can start with white-shelled eggs for your Easter project, McLaughlin also suggests experimenting with a canvas of brown eggs – which you can find at the grocery store – or blue and green ones, which you can sometimes find at a farmers market. Dipping the already colored eggs in dye adds a new dimension, the author says.

One of two methods is usually used for dyeing eggs naturally, McLaughlin says: a hot bath, in which the eggs are cooked at the same time they’re colored, or a cold bath.

The hot bath is faster, but the cold process may be easier when using multiple colors, because you can make up the dyes in advance, McLaughlin says. She prefers the cold bath, because its colors are more intense.

McLaughlin doesn’t follow any set measurement of water or materials for dyeing, but for beginners she gives these ballpark proportions: Per each five to six cups of water, use one packed cup of produce such as blueberries, chopped beets or onion skins, or 2 to 3 tablespoons of powdered spices such as turmeric.

“You can add more food or plant material if you want deeper colors, or double the recipe if you have a lot of eggs,” McLaughlin says.

She uses enough water to cover the eggs when using the hot bath, and fills a dye bowl half or three-quarters full of liquid for a cold bath.

Here are her instructions for dyeing eggs.

What you’ll need:

• Nonreactive pots for simmering the dye
• Water
• Glass jars or bowls (for cold method)
• Eggs
• White vinegar
• Edible dyestuff: onion skins, berries, turmeric, beets, red cabbage, etc.

Hot dye method

Simmer dyestuff in a pan of water for 15 minutes or so, then strain out the dyestuff so just the liquid remains in the pot. Add eggs to the pot and add water so the eggs are covered by about 2 inches of water. Add 1/8 cup of vinegar, then bring the pot to a boil for 17 to 20 minutes. This method cooks the eggs at the same time it dyes them.

Cold dye method

This method uses eggs that are already hard-boiled. Simmer dyestuff in a pot of water for 20 to 25 minutes. Strain off the dyestuff, then add 1/8 cup of vinegar, and let the liquid cool in jars. Once the dye is cool, add an already hard-boiled egg to each dye color and leave it there for at least an hour. For the most impressive colors, leave the egg in the dye for as many as 10 hours. But don’t let eggs sit out longer than two hours. Put the jars in the refrigerator if you plan to leave them in the dye longer than that.

It’s Tulip Time

Tulips are reaching their peak bloom this weekend, and there are events at Botanica and Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine to celebrate the explosions of color there.

Pat McKernan of Botanica says tulips there should be at their height this weekend and through next week. Tulips, Fairies & Friends is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Saturday and April 19 at Botanica, featuring performers, activities and crafts. It’s included in Botanica admission. Botanica is open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Art at the Arb at Bartlett Arboretum will feature more than 40 artists and 13 musical acts from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. See a list of artists and the schedule of musical acts at www.bartlettarboretum.com. Admission is $5.

Food including Luciano’s Italian, Lyon’s Den barbecue and Freddy’s frozen custard will be for sale.

Belle Plaine’s Tulip Time Festival also will be taking place in town. See details at www.belleplainechamber.com.

Both venues also will have events next weekend:

Tulips, Fairies & Friends continues April 19 at Botanica, and Bartlett Arboretum will have a new Easter Sunday event – Woods, Winds & Willows – on April 20. A 20-piece chamber orchestra will perform Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” at 4 that afternoon. Gates open at 3 p.m.; tickets are $10.

Daffodil show

You can see all kinds of colors, sizes and forms of daffodils under one roof Saturday, April 12, as the Wichita Daffodil Society has its annual flower show. It will be from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Minisa Park Shelter, 704 W. 13th St. Admission is free.

About Annie Calovich

Annie writes about home and garden, including her Bit of Earth column on Saturdays. She has been at The Eagle since 1985, working as a copy editor, a nation/world editor and a reporter. She’s a KU graduate who started out at The Coffeyville Journal.

Contact Annie at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com

Follow Annie on Twitter: @AnnieCalovich

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