Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grab an egg, heat your kiska, and away we go!

I got the pleasure of helping out in DD's class today. There are three classes in her grade, and the teacher of one of them comes from a Ukranian family that makes those decorative easter eggs called pysanky. I can't tell you how cute it was that a teacher's mother and father were there to help out. The father is the one that does the eggs, and he went around in each class and talked to the students about their designs and doted on them and such. The mother handled the baking of the eggs in a toaster oven, and said she was there for moral support since her role usually entails making the cabbage rolls and perogies and not decorating the eggs LOL. I told her she has the MOST important role then ;).

Unlike your typical dyed easter egg, these are not edible, and and they are not empty either. You start with uncooked, clean white eggs. A tool called a kiska - which consists of a metal cone attached to a stick handle with wire - is heated and dipped into a block of beezwax. The cone fills with wax, and you use the candle to keep it liquid for a few moments at a time. When you draw the tip of the cone along the egg's surface, it leaves a trail of wax. Whatever colour the egg shell is under the wax it stays. By covering areas and dipping the egg in a succession of darker dyes, you create designs. When you are done, the egg is heated so the wax melts, and you wipe it off to reveal the design underneath. Over the years, the inside of the egg will dry up and sometimes if you gently shake a very old egg, you can hear the dried yolk rattle inside.

The kids have been studying traditional motifs like flowers and spiders and stylized animals for the past little while, and I have to say I was quite impressed with the way their eggs turned out. They did a good job, considering how patient one has to be while working with the fiddly tools and eggs that don't want to sit still. Amazingly few eggs were dropped or broken. It was nice to see how proud the students were, showing off their eggs at each stage of the process. A pretty good time was had by all. And I managed to make one as well.

We enjoyed it so much, I would consider getting a kit to use next year to make eggs to give as gifts. Apparently, the eggs are considered easter greetings to be given to friends and family. I like that sentiment. DD plans on giving an egg to each grandmother, and keeping her last one for DH. I would go ahead and get a kit for this year but we already have so many plans we just don't have time. We will start earlier next year so we can get enough done.

Oh, and there were far fewer burns than I expected, considering each child had their own lit tealight to work with LOL. A few ouches here and there, but nothing serious. I joked before I did mine and said I was scared, since if I can use my experience with glue guns as a model, the chances of me burning my finger and saying a very bad word was quite probable. But I proved to be the perfect model of a lady. Well, as much as that is possible for me *snork*!

These are the eggs that DD made. From the left, you can see the spider (top and bottom) and tree motif (middle). Then the middle egg shows the butterfly above, and the "rams horns" below. The last egg shows the spider, rams horn, tree, and the last is a flower that is partially hidden.
This is the egg that I made. I chose a fish motif, to honour Cedric.

The parents of the teacher I have been telling you about made gifts for each helper that came, and this is what they gave us - along with a card that explains the Ukranian legends around egg decorating. The egg was decorated to celebrate the renewal of nature and life in the spring, because it was thought that life burst forth in the unviverse from nothing - much as the egg which seems dormant brings forth life. This was absorbed into the Christian celebration of Christ's resurrection.

There is also a legend that the fate of the world depends on pysanky. Each year a monster watches and counts how many pysanky are made. Each one strengthens the chain that holds him and keeps us safe for another year. If the egg decorating should ever stop, the monster will escape and consume the world.

Another story tells that during the agony of Christ, Mary decorated some eggs to offer Pontius Pilate to plead for her son's life. When she cried her tears left dots of colour on the eggs. When she saw him she dropped to her knees and the eggs scattered from her apron and continued until they spread throughout the world.

Very interesting.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Drizzle drizzle drizzle

What a cold and yucky, mucky rainy day. My sister came back from Mexico late last night, and I am sure she is not happy about the weather here. Then again, I haven't spoken to her yet so she might have had bad weather there LOL. Though I seriously doubt it. The socks are going okay so far. I have the cuff done and about two inches of leg. I want to do an inch more before starting the heel. Not LONG socks, but long enough that they keep some draft from going up my pant leg. Re-arranging the balls of yarn as I turn the needles has been helping me keep from getting tangled up, although there was one incident where Ruby when tromping across my lap, pulling yarn from both balls. Before I could do anything she spun around (twirling the yarn together like spaghetti around her legs) and laid down. Arrgh! It was a trial, untangling it from her legs but holding her so she couldn't jump down and pull it any farther, and it was getting caught between her toe pads and when I tried to free it she got bitey, and it just wasn't at all pretty. According to DH it was funny, however. Man should be careful what he laughs at, considering there were FOUR dangling needle points to be poked with. I got it all figured out and cleaned up. Then I was stupid enough to leave it on the couch when I was making dinner, and DD tossed it onto the coffee table in a jumble. Apparently she needed that exact spot to sit in while watching a rerun of Hannah Montanna. Sheesh! I'll work on it later, I don't have the heart to do it right now. So far I am still undecided about whether or not I like the two-socks-on-two-circs method. Parts of it seem almost unbearably fiddly and awkard, but then again that it what I felt like the first few times I used DPN's. This pair is worsted weight, and I am VERY glad I didn't decide to attempt my first try with sock weight yarn. I would have lynched myself with the cables before I even got both sides cast on for sure. In other news, I want to post for the record that I have proved once again that any kind of housework is hazardous to my health. While carrying a package of toilet paper up the stairs last night, the plastic gave way on me. The package fell between my legs and the stairs just as I was taking a step up, and it tripped me. I went flying forward and landing with a big SPLAT at the top landing of the stairs. I managed to bang both shins, and skin both my elbow and my palm on the left side. And to add insult to injury, as I sat there rubbing bruised shins and wondering what the hell just happened, the toilet paper package slid back all the way down the stairs with a SHH-BUMP SHH-BUMP SHH-BUMP and landed farther away than where it had started. Either I need to knit myself a toilet paper package carrier with secure handles and a safety net, or I should forever more abstain from carrying items up the stairs with the intent to put them away. After all, the package of 24 rolls has been sitting in the kitchen for over a week with no injuries recorded. What was that, buy smaller packages? Sorry, that wouldn't work either since it gets used up here so fast. I believe DH and DD eat it. Why, it wouldn't be home if one or the other didn't shout to me "I NEED PAPER!" so I can grab a roll from the package in the kitchen *cough* and run it up for them. Or go retrieve it from the cupboard in the off chance it actually made it in there without killing me first. So if you pardon me, I have to clean up from dinner. I promise to give the toilet paper package a kick on my way past, because no way am I taking the risk trying to bring it back up again! Who knows what the diabolical thing will do to me.

Monday, March 17, 2008

No, I haven't been kidnapped

We just got back from a week in Sunny Florida. I know I know, I didn't say anything about going. I can't explain it, but for some reason this time I had a feeling that I shouldn't announce it over the internet. I don't know why, I have done it before, and really what does it matter? But there you go. So we went to Florida for March Break. Although I didn't make any arrangements to meet any KT people while there, believe me I was waving all over the place at all of you down there LOL! My next trip down there is going to be a big KT meeting fest, I have already decided. The whole trip will be going from one area to another making visits, DH and DD be danged. It was a relatively low key trip. The flight was uneventful for us, although we heard later we were one of the last planes to get out before the airport was closed for the blizzard. Our area got 12 cm of snow (you'll have to do your own conversion. I understand inches and I understand centimeters but never the twain shall meet). That was on top of the 10 or so we had gotten just before that. DD liked the de-icing, but was annoyed we were on the plane so long before take-off. It was a bumpy flight but that added to the entertainment, it was like going to a theme park - tee hee! Once we landed it was off to get the rental car and a roughly 1 hour drive to where we were staying. The ride was nice this time. No huge traffic jams and it didn't seem to take forever. We swam every single day, and I made a point of finding good tomatoes and eating as many toasted tomato sandwiches I could in as many ways as possible. With mayo, with mayo and cheese, no mayo, no mayo with onion, open face, and so on. I was trying to make myself sick of them since we won't see a real tomato for months yet, but no luck. I did however manage to get my fill of Golden Coral and Sonny's BBQ. I am good for another year. We went to Clearwater beach, and I have to recommend it. Yes, the traffic was awful and it was sort of crowded. And the water was FREEZING. I couldn't even dip my toes in it. DD made it up to the knees or thereabouts. We walked down the pier, and walked both directions down the beach. There were lots of sea urchins (dead, though and mostly empty), tiny crabs, mussels and scallops, these weird things that sort of looked like crab legs but were tubes with some sort of slimey thing inside, and other odd stuff to look at while we walked. Dh had a better view than I did this year. Lots of toned bods in bikini's for him. For me? Mostly teenage boys that haven't grown into their voice yet and white chested northern daddies carrying beach supplies while following their wives and kids. There was one very buff and very tan fellow with tribal tattoos all over that seemed promising but he didn't stick around. Too bad ;). If you have the money and the chance, I would recommend renting a cabana and beach chairs. I didn't even know this existed! It sure beats having to drag your own and even though the chairs looked scary they were actually quite comfortable. The cabana was nice to cut the wind and you could sit as much in the shade (for me because I was sizzling like a piece of flabby bacon) or in the sun (for DH who was also sizzling but didn't seem to care, then spent the rest of the time quite red/pink and walking funny). We were close to the water line so DD could play with her bucket and splash in the waves while we watched with no fears. Well, relatively few fears. You know how I am. DD even met and played most of the time with another little girl. We also took a day and went to Typhoon Lagoon. I cannot say enough about that place. It is absolutely beautiful. Other than the new water coaster, most of the rides are low key but the surf wave is very cool and the park itself is just lovely. Palm trees, little lagoons, very relaxing and refreshing. There is a really nice section for smaller kids (think four and under) as well, with their own innertube ride and wandering stream. I think part of the charm is the sand. The area around the lagoon (which is a wave pool that cycles between bobbing waves, dead calm, and a surf typhoon wave that comes every ninety seconds and is announced with a *BOOM*) is like a beach with palm trees and chairs and chaise lounges, and is sand covered. I have been to many water parks, and this one is my favourite hands down just for the surroundings. There is enough sun and enough shade and places to sit and so forth. We didn't do it, but there is an area where you can don a life jacket and snorkel set, and swim across a pond that has SHARKS in it. No trick - no glass, no plexiglass divider, you just swim straight across. The water was too cold for me so I didn't do it, DD was scared and DH didn't feel he swam good enough to try it. One warning though. If you do decide to try the water coaster (and you should, it is AWESOME) - when the ride attendant says "Bottoms up" right before pushing you off? He isn't kidding. Tuck your butt up because if you don't it will hit the conveyor belts and a few other areas as you go down. DD actually got a bruise and she was crying by the end of the ride. But it is very fast and has some very steep drops and is hilariously fun, other than that. We aren't much for shopping, although part of my vacation quest was to find and bring back some Tazo "Awake" tea for my tassimo. I can get the tea bags here, but not the cartridges that go into my coffee maker. I can get Twinnings Earl Grey, which I like but sometimes you want a straight cup of strong tea, know what I mean? They don't sell them here in Canada and the only place I have seen them is Target in the states. So every time we saw a target store I forced DH to pull over so I could run in and check. How is it possible that every Target Store from Clearwater to Tampa to Orlando is SOLD OUT of the tea that I want? Did somebody call ahead and warn them? For pete's sake. I tried ordering it from their site but as soon as they know I am in Canada they shift me to that site where they DON'T sell it. Don't worry though, I will figure it out eventually. The vacation itself was pleasant enough with no real rough patches. The only smallish incident was on the way back at the airport. One of the security personnel asked DD what her name was. She answered with her first name. The person prompted her for her last name. You know, to make sure the kid we are taking is the kid really listed on the boarding pass. DD looked at me like she had no idea, then slowly said her last name like she had never heard it before. DH and I did a weak sort of laugh and explained she was a bit shy about giving her last name to strangers and thankfully she let us through. As soon as we were safely past and on the shuttle to the terminal I gave her a poke and asked that she NOT act like she has no idea what her name is while talking to airport security or people of authority. Sheesh. Other developments over the vacation are that I have discovered I absolutely love video podcasts when it comes to air travel. On the way back I watched almost a solid hour of Cooks Illustrated and you know? It really cleared up a few questions about a few of their recipes that I had already tried. Plus it was a nice change from reading for a bit, the sun was glaring across the magazine page and I felt too squished in to haul out a book. Then I listened to a couple of other pod casts and I have to admit, it felt nice to sit with my head back and eyes closed and listen to something interesting. A couple of french lessons, a knitting lesson about types of wool, and we were at the gate. Very nice. Just mind that you turn your iPod off and take the earphones out when instructed or else the flight attendants will get irritated with you. *Cough* I could see paying for some TV episodes I haven't seen and watching them during a flight as well. Would be a nice diversion, and no DVD's to futz around with on the plane. I am also trying to learn how to knit two socks at the same time on two circular needles. I could have chosen two socks on ONE circ, but I didn't have one long enough at the right size. Plus most of the directions for those seem to be toe up, and I like cuff down patterns at the moment. No reason, I just do. I have made a single sock on two circulars and liked it, I felt it went faster than when I use DPN's although I have nothing against using those and can knit quite comfortably that way. The appeal of getting two socks at once though is quite appealing, isn't it? No second sock syndrome. No socks that are fraternal twins because one is a touch longer than the other, and so forth. Note to those wanting to try something new in knitting. Do NOT try to learn how to cast on two different socks on two different circular needles when any family member in the house is conscious. THREE TRIES. And I couldn't even rip them out it was so tangled up. THREE TRIES! Finally last night after both DD and DH were in bed I was able to figure it out and have about an inch of cuff done. The biggest difficulty is making sure you keep the yarn where you need it when finishing a part so that it is where it should be to do the next part. So far so good this time. Keep your fingers crossed for me. I guess I have to go. My DD just walked in dressed like Snow White and is doing the "Look at me!" dance - which usually foretells that she will be an attention hog for the next hour and will do horrible things unless my eyeballs are focused on her during that time.