Monday, October 29, 2012

Seriously, Jack-Egg-Lanterns

In the mad pursuit of ambition and creativity, I find it's important to take time now and then to smell the roses--or the cinnamon and Allspice, season depending.  Lately when I break from my keyboard or lift my pen, I smell woodsmoke, see leaves turning, and think about Halloween.

This time of year, my to do list pulls quadruple-duty to accommodate costume-making, visits to pumpkin-patches, carving, cooking, stewing, souping and baking, and a new tradition of nightly processions by our preschool twins.  Lit only by their tiny, plastic pumpkin lanterns and a few flickering household decorations, they walk the dark hall from the bathroom to their bedroom emitting adorably ominous "ooooooos" and beaming ear-to-ear.  

There's just too much fun potential in Halloween to restrict the celebration to one day a year.  So here it lasts a month, and I got an idea (surely not original, but fun nonetheless) this past spring when all those egg coloring kits hit the clearance bins.  Jack-egg-lanterns! 


With our preschoolers lending eager hands to every task and activity, I'm relieved to report egg-coloring and Jack-Egg-Lantern making is more little kid-friendly and safe than pumpkin carving (which gave me enough palpitations this Halloween season, even with those "safe" carving kits), and easier for little arms than even pumpkin-gut scooping.  And with pumpkins going for $6 each at our local stores, even with supremely organic eggs from hand-raised chickens, each with their own little chicken condo and private yard, Jack-Egg-Lantern making is extremely affordable and my new favorite Halloween craft.

With two girls and four fast hands to keep busy, one orange packet of dye was not going to be enough.  So to keep four hands busy and keep two imaginations working, we combined the red, yellow and pink colorings to make multiple shades of "pumpkin."  I think next time a drop or two of purple would also make a deeper color.  Green and purple are great Halloween colors anyway, and we could have done more to make Goblin or Frankenstein eggs or Purple Monster eggs...  Okay, all the better for next time.  This time, we focused on the pumpkin.  Some turned out more pinky-orange, a few more yellowy-orange, but overall we got a good blend and loved the results! 

For special egg-fects, we experimented with multi-color dipping, and striping our "pumpkin" eggs with white, clear, and black crayons to add dimension and texture.  Looking back, red or dark orange crayon might do even better, especially pre-heated to give the lines more solid consistency.   

Here's an example of white-crayon:

We drew our most vivid Jack-Egg-Lantern faces with a Sharpie, though black crayon also turned out well.  Maybe next time we'll go with yellow crayon for the faces, red or orange for the texture lines, and a deeper orange for the dye to create a lit-from-within illusion.  

I think the most important part of this trial egg run is that it's a simple craft with edible (and healthy!) results that kept us entertained for hours.  Dips, spills, stains, one egg off the balcony (and thankfully no neighbors walking below at the time), and tons of great opportunities for peripheral fun, like practicing our scary faces (see below).  

Of course, eggs aren't just for breakfast, or Halloween.  Consider Independence Day red-white-and-blue eggs in July, colorful ornament eggs around Christmas, glittery eggs for New Years, heart-kissed Valentine eggs in February, lucky green and pot of golden eggs for St. Patrick's Day, and of course the year-round preschooler favorite Green Eggs and Ham!  The key to year-round, nutritious fun?  Hard boiled eggs. 

Have a spook-tacular Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Might and Magic of (a parent's) Halloween

To me, this time of year is chilly mornings and wood smoke, thunder storms and hot apple cider (and an assortment of apple-everythings left over from a fun-filled, calorie-packed, walk-til-you-drop, craft-shopping, road-trip-extravaganza to Apple Hill).  I love summer, Independence Day is always a treat, especially this year after a day with dear friends and a surreal drive home on the 110 with continuous fireworks bursting on either side as if celebrating the Season of Us! 

But for me it's fall, or autumn if you're in that sort of mood, and the Halloween magic of October that sets the holiday season in motion.  Halloween is such a unique holiday in its diversity of expressions and dress, and it's the only one I can think of where we cooperate en masse to celebrate -- truly selflessly -- with a massive host of complete strangers.

And because of that excitement and energy, not to mention the massive scope of such a start to what promises to be a busy holiday season, my to-do lists have lengthened by half and my time shortened by at least as much.  Writing, drawing, coloring, and keeping life in general going must now compete with costume making, pumpkin carving, and not-for-the-faint-hearted baking, cooking, treat-making, and decorating.  And throw in all this election stuff on top -- it makes for tired, overwhelmed, and (if you're like me) countless opportunities to feel as if you're falling behind faster than you can say "Boo!"

Well, I take a lesson from Jack Skellington, the most recent obsession for my preschool twins.  For those of you who've yet to see The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack, the very successful Pumpkin King gets a bit ahead of himself and decides to take over Christmas, adding a few Halloweeny improvements here and there.  Right or wrong, Jack is a skeleton of action!  He embraces nightmare-long to-do lists (and nightmares in general) with an enthusiasm and lipless smile that would (and does) raise the dead.

So for those of you who, like me, will be up until 3am every night so your daughter can be a pink spider kitty with a Minnie-Mouse Bow next to her twin sister, the Blue Web (also with all-essential Minnie Mouse bow), I say enjoy!  We only get to be this exhausted for a shocking few years.  Sleep, shmeep.  Be a skeleton of action!

And when you do clean your pumpkins and spend the better part of an hour painstakingly separating the seeds from goo so you can roast them tomorrow, assuming the appliance guy comes and can fix the oven, don't then try to walk both slippery glass bowls back to the kitchen across the hard-to-clean carpet.  Not two bowls at once.  And do wash your hands.  Or spend another painstaking hour re-collecting and cleaning said seeds, along with the carpet and bowls and walls and you.  Forget for a moment that ever-growing to-do list and make two trips!