Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Well, we naturally dyed easter eggs this year. I was worried they wouldn't turn out because half the comments I read on other peoples' sites said they:

1.) Don't take dye well.
2.) They taste like whatever you use to dye them in so you can't eat them.
3.) You need to soak them overnight.
4.) Acid of vegetable dye thins out shells.

Hoo-rrah for us, though, because it turns out I am a natural egg dye making prodigy. Not only were the dyes pretty, but only one (pickled beet juice) required soaking longer than an hour. I am thinking complaint two above is a product of complaint three. Our eggs don't taste like tumeric or beets or cabbage. It IS true that the egg shells are thinner.

The photos there are lovely and so are her eggs. I like the rustic look of my eggs, but they are the product of a few kids gone wild and less crafty than the ones at craftastica. Also since she just posts twice a year or so (like me!) I like her extra and got the gumption to post something today.

Our recipe for natural egg dying is:

1) 4 cups boiling water for spice mixes; 6-7 if you are going to boil vegetable down for an hour. You can let the mixture cool if kids will be dying to no great harm, even though websites say you can't.

2) 1/2 tsp alum (found in the spice section of the grocery store). This is the magic ingredient, a canning ingredient I think. Alternatively, Martha Stewart uses 1/2 cup of salt for the same purpose. I don't know if it works as well.

3) 1/2 cup of vinegar

4) Contrary to what I've read on the internet, brown eggs work as well as white eggs, you just get different colors.

5) Add hardboiled eggs to dye containers as you would with a dye kit for between 15 minutes and 1 hour.

6) Martha Stewart suggests wiping down the eggs with vinegar before dying if what you want is a uniformly dyed egg.

As for colors that worked well for us:

Keepers for Sure:
Golden Yellow: Tumeric, 4 Tablespoons. Very pretty. Darker than food coloring dye.
Beet/Rose Red: Pickled Beet Juice (not boiled)
Earthy Brown: 4 boiled beets with red onion skins.
Purpley Blue: 1 head of purple cabbage boiled.
Yellow Onion Skins: 4 cups worth. Rusty, reddish brown.

Meh, but not terrible, especially if you like light pastels:
Pale Yellow: Saffron, 1 Tablespoon. Not quite worth it, even though we used the cheap Mexican Saffron from the Fiesta Market.
Pale Green: Six cups of spinach. I have read about people using different types of tea to get brilliant greens. This is what I will try next time.

Onion Skin Relief: You can tie the skins around the eggs and boil them. I wouldn't boil longer than fourteen minutes if you want to eat them. Or you can boil for 3 hours and make an egg that you can keep forever without it going bad (or so they say...). We tried this but I didn't have good elastics to attach the skins and they fell off mostly. Martha Stewart has a good video of how to do it well.

Flower Relief: Read craftastica for this. You attach a flower or leaf to the egg by tying a nylon or cooking fabric square around it tightly. You can cook as with the onion skin relief. My experiments with this failed as I didn't have the right equipment.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Barack Obama Killed Michael Jackson

Some of my earliest memories are of trying to moonwalk while lip syncing to Michael Jackson's Thriller album. The Indian community of Mobile, Alabama, where I grew up, was as obsessed with Jackson as Indians all over the globe were, which I think was demonstrably more obsessed than any other culture. (The countless, and I mean countless, variations on Jackson's choreagraphy seen in Bollywood movies is the irrefutable evidence.)

When Jackson's hair caught fire while filming a Pepsi commercial, it was a major event that had to be discussed, parsed out, mocked, and imitated for years. Then there was his conversion from being a black man to something akin to a white person in terms of physiognomy -- the look of face, the tint of his skin. And that video -- I'm black, I'm white -- with all those racially diverse people morphing into each other. And that other video where Jackson is some kind of Pharaoh, and Eddie Murphy shows up.

What I'm trying to say is that Michael Jackson's life -- and his body -- was a vessel for the contradictions within the collective, capital-driven racial psychology of the US. Our society's struggles with inequality and racism were enacted on his body. His whole childhood was turned into a national childhood -- this innocent high-pitched, non-threatening version of James Brown that everyone could consume. And he didn't get to have his own childhood and he was always in search of it in the weirdest and, at times, disturbing of ways. He suffered for us.

The election of Barack Obama, and the nearly magical way his life story resolves national contradictions while acknowledging the histories behind them, is the flip-side to Michael Jackson's being the king of pop. It's as if Obama released all the tension that made Jackson the national and international figure that we needed him to be. As if Jackson didn't have organs -- no heart or kidney or liver -- just this national-trauma-turned-pop music-genius-energy inside of him. And Obama has taken that magic, converted it from art-producing-pathos to open, straight-forward expression.

We mourn Jackson's death, and the beauty he created and the suffering he endured, because we were all along casting our votes for it, creating it, feeding off it, surviving because of him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mission Completed

Well. I finished my novel's second draft and defend the PhD next Tuesday. Maybe I will have more time to write on Green Parenting. I miss the community and I miss having a record of our lives...

My green missions for the summer: getting tankless water heaters, rainwater barrels (you might notice that's been on the list since time immemorial), and getting an energy audit for the home.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Green Valentine's Day Gifts

I haven't been able to post to Green Parenting for a long time because I took a new and demanding job as the editor of a magazine called Cite: The Architecture and Design Review of Houston. I also launched a blog called that I think would be of interest to Green Parenting readers. Like Cite magazine, it covers urban planning, transit, preservation, environmentally responsible design, fine and decorative arts, neighborhoods, and community building.

MaGreen just wrote a fantastic post for OffCite on Green Valentine's Day Gifts. Some highlights: locally-made macaroons (well, local for Houstonians), flowers made from elephant poop, and a list of love poetry books put compiled by graduates of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program.

I have some posts up too. Among them is an article about the devastation of Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island and the disproportionate effect it has had poor people and minorities.

That's how we do it. Joy and solidarity.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chinese New Year

Grasshopper and MaGreen went to Chinese New Year today. Just as we hit the crowd with my friend Nicole and her kids, my little girl tensed up. She held my fingers as we all snaked through a gigantic crowd. It was hot, we ARE still in Houston, and so we found our way inside where there were a few dancers on a stage and a large audience, and more booths. By the time we were half-way into the second group of rooms, Grasshopper was screaming that she wanted to go back outside: she was scared, she said.

So went back outside, and the crowd still scared her. I found a patch of grass, and Nicole and her family graciously sat with us while Grasshopper could wind down. But when we tried to leave the grassy knoll she started screaming again, and I let Nicole go on. I sat her down and asked her to try to give walking around one more chance, and that we'd driven a long way and I really thought she'd enjoy the festival if she gave it a shot. She sat still a couple minutes, and decided to try again...but she couldn't last three minutes. She was just terrified, it seemed, of the crowd.

So we left. I was sad not learn more, but Grasshopper was almost immediately calmer, and pretty articulate about her fear of all the people. We stopped by and Indian Grocery, had a quick lunch at an Indian buffet, and came home, where we both passed out.

I'm glad we gave the day a shot, but no more festivals for this family for at least another six months!

See how I'm going to pretend like the last post wasn't in September.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Flashl-IKE games

Greendaddy has created two characters, Ravi and Yolanda, with the flashlights to amuse Grasshopper during the dark (and silent until some yanker went and plugged a generator in across the streets :() nights. They are just the dark lit center of the flashlight's glow on the wall.

Ravi and Yolanda dance together, and then go off to find monkeys or boats or whatever else they can hanging on the wall. Sometimes they go to the park.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In Celebration of Having The Blog Fixed

Grasshopper: Daddy I'm pooing!
Greendaddy: Great, Grasshopper.
Grashopper: It's a big poo jumping around like the dolphins.

(oops will return later. have to go...)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike Mini Report

Hi. Greenfamily survived Ike. This picture below is as devastating as it got for our family (face is filled with ketchup, not blood :))

We woke up on Saturday morning to this flood in our front yard.

When the winds and rain let up we went out for a walk.

At our friends, we played the requisite board games.

And spent much time camping inside our house by candlelight. We luckily have gas instead of electric cooking, so our meals are fairly gourmet and have involved cooking everything in the freezer, then the fridge. We are really, really sick of fake meat, which I had just bought a lot of since it was on sale.

We have enjoyed a few days without access to internet or electricity. Life is peaceful here on our street. GreenDaddy says its the most relaxed he's been in a long time.

Last night we took a card table out onto the lawn and ate with our friend Hosam. Neighbors joined in, and eventually GreenDaddy, Grasshopper, and Ben, the neighbors sun, gave an impromptu concert.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It's Good Not To Hear

It's good news when you don't hear from us often, lately: it means I'm not stuck in my novel and GreenDaddy is busy at work at his new job.

Hope all the folks in blogland are okay. I am writing a real post, just isn't anywhere near being posted.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Al Gore's Speech on Energy

I think Al Gore's recent speech is visionary. I'm proud that Texas generates the most wind energy of all the states and is investing five billion dollars in improving our grid to bring more wind energy from West Texas to the densely populated areas.

Monday, July 07, 2008

She Can Doyit Herself

I'm not sure what language she's imitating when she says "yit" and not "it"...but doing yit herself is a big deal for Grasshopper lately. We took these photos on our recent trip to Utah, where we visited my family, and I like the series and thought I'd post them until I get around to writing the couple other posts about Utah I'm thinking of!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Um, Thanks

The other day I was waking Grasshopper up from a nap, which usually entails me lying down next to her and horsing around on the bed for about twenty minutes. On this day, she ended up on the other side of my rear.

"What's this, your butt?" she asked.

"Yes, Grasshopper, that's my butt," I said.

"And it's a big butt," she said, appreciatively, in her two year's old version of the teacher voice, the same tone she uses to tell me I've done a good job at something.

"A very, very, big butt."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Blueberries as Big as the End of Your Thumb!
organic blueberry picking and pick your own farms near Houston

Scroll down for a list of organic pick-your-own farms of all ilks near enough Houston, and a link to find farms in other areas of the country as well!

Last weekend the family went to Chmielewski's Blueberry Farm, to self pick blueberries. We'd visited a pumkin patch in Virginia with our family last fall, but never got around to buying one of the pre-picked pumkins because we exhausted ourselves on the excellent rides they offered, including giant slides made of pipes, a pig-pen converted to a sandbox kind of thing, except it was filled with corn kernals, a giant inflated pumkin to jump on, several different kinds of mazes, a petting zoo, and I'm sure I'm missing something else. And we probably all thought it was a little lame we weren't allowed to pick our own pumpkins (I was really excited beforehand because I really wanted to whack the pumkin from the vine!).

Well, Chmielewski's Blueberry Farm can't be accused of having too many distractions aside from blueberries. They're serious about picking your own.

Somebody told me that this year, because of the rising costs of transporting foods and hiring laborers, more and more small farms are implementing pick your own programs -- though I can't find any articles on Google to back that claim. But when I was researching the list of places to pick around Houston, I found lots of other organic edibles waiting for the picking: blackberries, dewberries, veggies of all sorts, apples, pumkins (in fall). Pretty much there's something to pick around Houston from early May till late September. Farm germs are supposed to be good for babies' immune systems, and it's such a relief to explore the countrysides around Houston, that I think I'll try to get us out picking at least a few times this summer.

For the blueberry trip we left our house at 6:30 in the morning, got to the farm by 7:30 to beat the June heat, and lost ourselves among many an amateur picker, and plenty of more serious self-pickers in the maze of berries. It was a lovely two hours we spent picking, eating, and calling out through the berries to our friends Jbrd and Nicole and their families.

We started with this empty bucket:

We showed Grasshopper how to pick berries without squishing them, and she caught on quickly.

Her two and a half year old self expertly avoided most of the red or green berries, and just picked the blue ones. The concept of finding blueberries on bushes, and not in plastic containers didn't seem wow her, and I was glad, hoping our little garden has taught her to assume that if there's a little fruit or veggie, it came from the earth.

She started picking.

And eating.

And plucking.

And eating.



And Greendaddy and I plucked...though we sought berries atop the bushes so kids could get the lower ones.

We ate berries too,

but not as many as Grasshopper.

They made her wacky.

And silly.

She didn't even want to pose for a picture if it meant she couldnt' have a mouthful of the giant sweet berrries.

So we hoisted her high away from the bucket to get one family shot.

Then it was time to go.

We snipped her blueberry patch umbilical cord, rushed her to the car, but it was very awkward fitting her into the carseat.

Once home, I gave away some berries, we saved some for immediate eating, and I froze the rest, which was very easy: to freeze berries, or any fruit, them out on a couple cookie sheets in one layer (I mean, I didn't pile berries on top of each other), and freeze them overnight. Then I put them in ziplock bags. They taste NOTHING like store bought frozen berries...they retain shape and taste. Yum yum yum yum yum.

Want to pick Blueberries or other growy sundries in the Houston metro area? Here's the mostly organic list I culled from the Pick Your Own website...and if you're not a Houstonian you can use that same site to find places to pluck in near wherever you are:

Chmielewski's Blueberry Farm
23810 Bauer Hockley Road, Hockley, TX 77447. Phone: 281-304-0554.
37.5 mi – about 40 mins north from Houston on 290, up to 1 hour 20 mins in traffic
Open: Wednesday and Friday 7;30 AM to 1:00 PM and Saturday and Sunday 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM; other times by appointment. Follows organic methods but not yet certified, blueberries, gift shop, restrooms, picnic area. Payment: Cash, Check.
37.5 mi – about 40 mins north on 290 up to 1 hour 20 mins in traffic

Moorehead's Blueberry Farm
19531 Moorhead Road, Conroe, TX. Phone: 281-572-1265. 888.702.0622 (Toll Free)
40.5 mi from Houston – about 43 mins North on 1-45 up to 1 hour 10 mins in traffic
Twenty varieties of blueberries (primarily Tifblue, Premier, Brightwell, Climax, Garden Blue, Becky Blue, Alice Blue and Sharp Blue) on 20 acres. No pesticides are used. No entrance fee; you are charged only for what you pick. Sampling is not deterred. Buckets are provided, as well as picnic tables, rest room facilities. Soft drinks and water are available for purchase.

S & L Farms - pumpkins, summer squash, Other fruit or veg,
4606 Cr 186, Anderson, TX 77830. Phone: 830- 832-9755.
Crops are usually available in September, October, November. Open: We are open 7 days a week if no bad weather; if the gate is open come on in. We follow organic methods, but are not yet certified. Payment: Cash, only.
80.9 mi – about 1 hour 24 mins down 290/then 6 up to 2 hours 10 mins in traffic

Bauer Farms Berries
- blackberries, dewberries, Follows organic methods
17702 Mueschke Road, Cypress, TX 77429. Phone: 281-563-9669.
64.2 mi – about 1 hour 9 mins up to 1 hour 30 mins in traffic 1-10 and farm roads
Crops are usually available in April, May, June. Open: Monday to Friday 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm; Sat and Sunday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Dewberries - Mid April to Mid May Blackberries - Mid May - Mid June. We follow organic methods, but are not yet certified. Payment: Cash, only.

Home Sweet Farm
7800 FM 2502, Brenham, TX 77833. Phone: 979.251.9922.
1 hour down 290 JUNE 22 TOMATO FESTIVAL LET US GO!!!!
ORGANIC, beans, eggplant, flowers, melons, peppers, pumpkins, summer squash, winter squash, tomatoes, other vegetables, OTHER fruit or veg, pumpkin patch-pick in the field, child-sized haybale maze, and prepicked produce, snacks and refreshment stand, picnic area
Crops are usually available in June, July, August, September, October, November. We follow organic methods, but are not yet certified. Payment: Cash, only.

Ross's Blueberries - blueberries,
1453 County Road 2270, Cleveland, TX 77327. Phone: 2816227725.
45 min down 59
Crops are usually available in June, July. Open: Call ahead. It is our home farm and very casual. You just come and pick. It is not commercial. Weekends are probably best but weekdays are possible. Just call ahead. Also, mornings or evenings are better because of the Texas heat! $5.00 a gallon. We use buckets bought at a feed store. Eat while you pick too! They start coming in during June. They go thru middle of July. We have 5 kinds and the best are in June. We follow organic methods, but are not yet certified. Payment: Cash, only. We are not certified organic. We do not spray our berries. We use Miracle Gro to fertilize. You may want to bring bug spray.

Griffin Berry Farm
Hour and a half down i10
2394 Moore Road, Beaumont, TX 77713. Phone: 409-753-2247. Email:
- apples, blueberries, grapes, pears, peaches, plums, Other fruit or veg, restrooms, picnic area. Crops are usually available in May, June, July, October, November. Open: Check Web Page. We follow organic methods, but are not yet certified. Payment: Cash, Check. (ADDED: May 30, 2008)