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March 30, 2012

Pysanky Egg Dying for Easter!

This Easter I had the good fortune to learn about a Ukrainian craft technique called Pysanky. The name comes from the verb to write, as you use a stylus (called a kistka) to write with wax on the egg shell.

The eggs are first blown out through holes at each end to be hollow, so they will last indefinitely.

You start with the lightest color, usually white. Everything that you want to remain white, you cover with wax, using the kistka. Then, you dye the egg, in the next dye bath, going in progressively darker colors, and add more wax. Wherever there is wax, the dye will not be able to penetrate. This preserves the part of the design under the wax. In the end, you will have an egg with a great deal of wax on it. Then, using the side of a candle flame, you melt away the wax, revealing the colors that were protected underneath. This results in a brilliantly colored and often very intricately designed egg!

The dyes used in Pysanky are also not your traditional pills-from-a-kit variety that one buys around the Easter holiday in America. These chemical dyes are super saturated, producing noticeably more vibrant colors than regular food dyes. Because the eggs are hollow, they floated atop the dye, unlike the hard-boiled ones I had traditionally been used to, so they had to be spun on the surface of the liquid dye to achieve a uniform look.

Below is an egg from our night that is mostly covered in beeswax, and is in the later stages of dying. The beeswax tended to turn dark from the flame as it melted in the kistka -- you can see that as well on my white egg above that I had just started decorating.

As the wax is melted off of the finished egg, it's absorbed by wiping with a paper towel. The designs are revealed as if cleaning a mirror It's breathtaking to realize the final look.

Our hostess Yvonne created a lovely graphic tonal egg in blues and black that was stunning.

Here's a link to the Meetup event that I attended:

It was my first time joining the "Etsy Mob" and the people that were there were warm and welcoming artists and teachers. I look forward to getting together with them in the future!

If you'd like to learn more about Pysanky, check out this site with instructions, sources for materials, and patterns:

What are some of your favorite Easter traditions, and what are their origins? Please share by leaving a comment on my blog.

March 2, 2012

Grandma Walker's Potato Chip Cookies

Grandma Walker's potato chip cookies are in the oven! I remember her making them for us when we'd visit but this is the first time I've tried them. She always made drop cookies--I'm experimenting with the dough as a bar cookie since I have neither the counter space nor the sink/dishwasher for cookie sheets. I so hope they turn out well as I've been looking forward to them for weeks!

I'm gonna try one or two and mail at least half the pan to my mom, since this was her mother's recipe. Another reason to make them as a bar cookie--they'll fit better in a mailing box. I used sliced almonds because I had them left over from holiday baking, but any nut will do in this recipe. My grandma would've used chopped walnuts. This is one recipe where the quality and freshness of your flour really makes a difference. I only keep one kind of flour in my home--no room for lots of containers--so pretty much everything I make is made with wheat flour. Since I don't cook for a large number of people, I'm learning to scale down my baking supplies and buy smaller quantities more often. Stale flour is no good (though that wasn't my issue today). I had trouble having patience before sampling them straight out of the oven, so they were a little crumbly when cut. After putting them in the fridge to cool, they hardened up and cut quite nicely.

My friends might not know my grandma raised nine children, for long spans of time as a single parent. I love revisiting her depression-era recipes. This typed version was scanned from a cookbook put together at the retirement complex my grandma lived in for years--Round Barn Manor in Champaign IL in the early 1980s.

Potato Chip Cookies

3/4 c. Butter
1/2 c. Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
1 1/2 c. sifted Flour
1/2 c. Nuts
3/4 c. crushed Chips

Mix all together and drop on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12/15 minutes. Cool 1 minute and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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