Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Know Your Energy Habits: Six Tips from Paul Scheckel

Energy efficiency is one topic at the forefront of Earth Day ideas and actions, but if you’ve never looked at your own energy consumption habits, or if you like the idea of reducing consumption but don’t know how to begin, Paul Scheckel has some manageable starting places to suggest. Thinking globally often means examining our individual actions, and small, simple changes in our awareness and everyday habits do make a difference. Have you taken any of these steps already? Which ones will you strive for today and in the seasons ahead?

Around the Storey office, people have been sharing their actions and pledges to live more gently on our planet and we’ll be posting them on our social media channels throughout the day. We hope you’ll share yours with us, too.


Renewable Habits

Put technology to work for you, but don’t expect technology to do it all. Living with renewable energy is about living within the means that nature provides. Adopt renewable habits, such as “one person, one light,” and simply be aware of all energy being used in your home.

There are times when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, and those are times for conservation. But when nature gives, take advantage of the opportunity for abundance. For example, save your hot-water clothes washes for when the sun can heat the water.

Becoming aware of your energy habits and applying energy-smart strategies can make a big difference in the size and success of your renewable energy system. You can live in the greenest, most efficient dwelling and still use a ton of energy if you have not adopted efficient habits. Here are some tips to help enhance your renewable acumen.

Readiness tip #1: Increase your energy awareness by understanding what’s happening in your house and why.

  • Are there lights on that don’t need to be?
  • Do appliances have standby loads that always consume power?
  • If you have a private water system, do you know when your well pump is on?
  • Is the furnace pilot light on in the summer?
  • Are the computer’s energy-saving features turned on?

Readiness tip #2: Assess your energy use on every level by doing your own energy audit. For example:

  • Look at every outlet; know what’s plugged in and why.
  • Learn to read your electric and gas meters and understand where every last Btu or kilowatt-hour is going. Examine a year’s worth of energy bills, look at monthly and seasonal trends, and think about what happens in your home during those periods.
  • Try to determine how many fuel units are used for heating, hot water, air conditioning, and other electrical uses.
  • Know something about everything in your home that uses energy — when it’s needed and why, how much it uses while operating, and how best to control its operation.

Readiness tip #3: Research products when replacing lights and appliances, and use only the most efficient models you can find. The ENERGY STAR website is a good resource that lists thousands of products and their energy consumption. Plan ahead by researching for future appliance purchases so you know what you want. That way, if an appliance breaks down and you need to replace it right away, you’ll know what to buy and not end up with an energy hog simply because it’s on sale.

Readiness tip #4: Adopt the most efficient practices, preferably those that don’t use any energy at all. These include:

  • Hanging clothes to dry on a passive solar clothes dryer (a clothesline)
  • Employing passive heating and cooling strategies
  • Using solar-heated water
  • Watching the cat or the kids (or the neighbors) instead of TV
  • Taking advantage of nighttime air to cool your house with open windows and fans, then closing the windows and shades before the air warms in the morning 
Readiness tip #5: Control what you can. This might include:
  • Keeping the thermostat as low as you can in winter and as high as you can stand it in summer
  • Making sure your water heater is set no higher than 120°F
  • Installing low-flow showerheads and low-flow aerators on faucets
  • Putting appliances with phantom loads [appliances that are appear to be off but are really using a small amount of power] on switched or automatically controlled power strips
  • Turning off the water heater if you’re away from home for more than a few days
  • Keeping humidity levels under control by removing moisture at its source; if you must use a dehumidifier, pay attention to the relative humidity and do not over-dry the space or dry more space than necessary
  • Using timer controls and occupancy sensors for lighting that tends to get left on
  • Using switched power strips that allow you to turn things off (such as an entire entertainment system or office peripherals) with ease
Readiness tip #6: Minimize optional or discretionary uses of energy, such as clothes-drying, outdoor lighting, and use of air conditioning when outdoor temperatures are not life-threatening.

Doing Your Homework

As you explore practical renewable energy options that fit your needs, location, climate, and lifestyle, be sure to research state, local, utility, and federal incentives that may be available for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Contact your state energy office and local electric and gas companies about services and incentives, and ask a tax professional about applicable federal tax credits for efficiency upgrades and renewables.

In addition, here are some of my favorite resources that can help you identify incentives and keep you abreast of developments in renewable energy and energy efficiency:

  • Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy An online resource for incentives and policy information for renewables and energy efficiency improvements, including initiatives sponsored by states, local governments, utilities, and some federal programs.
  • Tax Incentives Assistance Project (TIAP) Developed as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, this online resource helps homeowners and businesses make the most of federal income tax incentives for renewable energy and energy-efficient products and technologies.
  • Home Power magazine: An excellent resource for all things renewable. Content ranges from homeowner profiles to highly technical details on all aspects of creating and maintaining home energy systems.
  • Home Energy magazine: Another good periodical and website devoted to all matters of efficiency. Though it’s geared primarily to the energy professional, interested homeowners will find lots here to chew on.
Text excerpted from The Homeowner’s Energy Handbook © 2013 by Paul Scheckel. All rights reserved.



Monday, April 21, 2014

“I Think It’s Turning Into a Hobby”: A Fan Letter from a Young Sewer

Last December, we asked authors Amie Petronis Plumley and Andria Lisle about hobbies. Both remarked that sharing their love of favorite pastimes with young people was a key inspiration behind Sewing School and Sewing School 2, their sewing books for kids. Recently, one fan whose passion for sewing has been ignited by the projects in Sewing School 2 put down her fabric scissors and picked up her pen. Andria Lisle introduces us to young sewing enthusiast, Savannah H.
Savannah H., with her Wall Pocket, one of the projects in Sewing School 2
Thanks to social media and the power of the Internet, Amie and I often get instant feedback on our Sewing School books, on the projects Amie posts on our Sewing School blog, and on our Facebook page. It’s gratifying to read the latest Amazon.com reviews, to get new “likes,” and to see uploaded pictures of kid-made projects. But — I’m going to sound like my mother here — there’s nothing like receiving a handwritten note sent through the post. And this month, Amie and I received our first-ever piece of bona fide fan mail, from ten-year-old Savannah H., who astutely remarked in her neat handwriting that she was “pretty sure that [we] didn’t get letters a lot (from kids).”

Our hearts melted, and we each sent individual responses to Savannah, who discussed the creative process of book writing, her plans to sew the eHold project from Sewing School 2, and more. This is why, after teaching kids how to sew during summer camp, we submitted our book proposal to Storey in the first place — so that kids around the world could learn, too. Here’s a look at Savannah’s letter and her latest sewing projects.

Andria Lisle
Memphis, Tennessee

Savannah and her eHold

Dear Amie and Andria,

I got your book Sewing School 2, and I would just like to say thanks! I love all the different projects, and I am sure it took a lot of writing, planning, and creative thinking. I love your ideas, and that book really helped give me confidence in sewing. I have my own sewing machine now, and I sew on it almost every day! I have been planning and saving up money to buy a mini Kindle, and I was flipping through your book, and then I’m like, “Oh look, there’s an eHold in here!” and I want to make that for when I get it! I love the little pocket and how it’s padded, and your instructions are super detailed, making it much easier to understand than most instructions. I have already made a couple things, and they are really cute and useful! I also like how you have answers in the back of the book explaining what to do when you are stuck or have a problem.

Savannah’s Secret Message Pillow and Stripy Quilt
Now I ♡ sewing. I think its turning into a hobby! And its all because of your book! I hope you like my letter. I tried to make it long because we were pretty sure that you didn’t get letters a lot (from kids). If you have any more ideas, maybe you could make a Sewing School Three!! Thank you soooo much!

Best wishes,

Savannah H.

P.S. I love the patterns in the back of the book! Super useful!!
                                                                                             
Sewer and letter-writer Savannah models her eHold (and an excellent T-shirt)
Thanks to Savannah H. for her letter and photos, and to her mom for giving us permission to share! Happy sewing!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Brooke Dojny: Breakfast Cheese Strata


With Passover and Easter upon us, this is undoubtedly the week of the egg. Brooke Dojny explores the changing reputation of this celebrated symbolic food, and shares a recipe for an easy, cheesy strata that’s sure to please the egg enthusiasts at your weekend brunch.


“Love and eggs are best when they are fresh,” or so the old Spanish proverb goes. Actually, I’m not altogether sure about the love part, but eggs — yes!

In my lifetime, eggs have undergone an evolution similar to that of many other farm products: while fresh-from-the-farm was once the norm, inexpensive commercially produced eggs (and the salmonella scares sparked by unsanitary egg factory conditions that accompanied them) dominated for decades. Today, with raised awareness and re-educated taste buds, many of us seek out eggs that are cage-free, organic, or free-range and, if we’re really, really lucky, come from local chickens.


Once you’ve tasted fresh, farm-raised eggs, there’s no going back. The shells — usually brown but sometimes pale green or blue or cream, depending on the breed of chicken — are very hard and protect the egg inside nicely. The whites are thick and hold together, and the yolks — oh, the yolks! Bright orangey-yellow, the yolks of farm-fresh eggs stand up rounded and firm, unlike the listless, flat yolks of commercial eggs. And the flavor? Think of the difference between processed American cheese and a good aged farmhouse cheddar and you’ll get the idea. They taste like…eggs! No boring, pallid flavor profile, no off taste, just a Proustian memory of perfection.

In spring, when local hens are laying like crazy, I buy a couple dozen at a time, either from the farmers’ market or from the local woman who has a few chickens happily scratching around in her front yard.  Then I eat them poached, over asparagus, with shavings of Parmesan, scrambled, with chives and a bit of goat cheese, fried, in a sandwich on whole-grain bread with ham, hard-cooked and deviled, or, for a really special breakfast, baked into a rich and cheesy strata.


Breakfast Cheese Strata

This one-dish egg- and cheese-layered casserole makes an ideal breakfast or brunch dish — perfect for those visiting house guests, which, in Maine, make rather frequent appearances during the summer months. Everybody loves this dish, and it has the always-welcome do-ahead feature: you can put it together the evening before, stick it in the refrigerator, and it’s all ready to bake in the morning. For breakfast, you could subtract the optional scallions, or, when it’s going to be a brunch dish, add other sautéed vegetables (such as peppers or zucchini), or even layer in about half a pound of cooked and crumbled breakfast sausage.

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

12 slices good-quality firm white sandwich bread, or 12 ounces Italian bread, preferably day-old
3–4 tablespoons butter, softened
2½ cups (about 10 ounces) grated medium-sharp Cheddar cheese
3 thinly sliced scallions, or 3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives (optional)
4 eggs
2½ cups whole or low-fat milk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Paprika

Directions:

  1. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish or other 2 ½-quart baking dish with butter.
  2. Cut the crusts off the bread and spread the slices with butter. Cut each slice into 3 strips. Layer half the bread in the bottom of the prepared dish and sprinkle with half the cheese and half the scallions, if desired. Repeat with the remaining bread, cheese, and scallions.
  3. Whisk together the eggs, milk, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread. Cover and let stand for at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate for as long as 8 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  5. Bake the strata, uncovered, until it is evenly puffed and golden and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Sprinkle lightly with paprika and serve immediately from the casserole.
Recipe excerpted from Dishing Up® Maine © 2006 by Brooke Dojny. All rights reserved.
Photos courtesy of the author.

Brooke Dojny is the author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, including The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, Dishing Up® Maine, and Lobster! (all Storey Publishing). She won the James Beard Award in 1997 for The AMA Family Cookbook, co-authored with Melanie Barnard.  Brooke started her culinary career in the 1980s when she worked as a catering directress for Martha Stewart. From 1990 to 2004, Brooke co-authored (with Melanie Barnard) Bon Appetit’s monthly “Every-Night Cooking” column. She has written for most of the other major culinary magazines and has been a regular contributor to Down East Magazine. She lives on the coast of Maine, where she can be found hanging out at clam shacks and farmers’ markets. Her next book for Storey is Chowderland, to be published in 2015.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Video: Roast a Pork Loin on a Spit with Paula Marcoux

This morning’s rude awakening — snow and ice after a 70° weekend! — hasn’t put a damper on our excitement for the impending release of Paula Marcoux’s new book, Cooking with Fire.

Paula’s unique background in archaeology and cooking make this book a mouth-watering marriage of how-to and history, with over 100 recipes for preparing everything from meat and fish to breads and beverages using that ancient and universal culinary technology — fire.

And, as Paula demonstrates in this new how-to video, cooking with live fire doesn’t have to involve complicated equipment or be confined to those times of year when it’s nice outside. With a proper, safe set up, you can roast a delicious pork loin over a backyard bed of coals or in your indoor hearth.

Enjoy!

   

Download the recipe for Roast Pork Loin and look for Cooking with Fire to hit shelves in just a few short weeks!

Want more? Take a peek inside the pages:



Monday, April 14, 2014

Meet the Winners of Our Grow Your Homestead Giveaway!



At Storey, we believe that living a self-sufficient lifestyle doesn’t mean doing everything all on one’s own, but having the confidence to get out there and learn what it takes to get things done.

In March, we celebrated the creative, do-it-yourself spirit that exists in anyone who bakes their own bread or grows food from seed, who knits their own socks on the city subway or lives completely off the grid. We hoped our Grow Your Homestead Giveaway would inspire and support homesteading ambitions for our prize winners, no matter the scope of their vision or their skill level. A panel of Storey judges had the unenviable task of choosing their three favorite entries from all the mini-essays submitted and designating a Grand Prize winner and two runners-up. Though our final essayists each have different designs and desires in mind for putting their prize packages to use, together, all three winners embody the idea that homesteading happens at many levels.

The Grand-Prize winning essay came from Cris Cantin of Wisconsin, who knows firsthand that community is at the heart of every homestead.
Here is Cris’s winning entry:
“I currently homestead on a 1/4 acre lot in a rural village in Wisconsin, a place I love calling the Farmlette. Home to chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, and dozens of gardens scattered throughout the entire yard, I love making the most out of the space I have. In fact, I love it so much that I routinely open my home to friends and visitors who are very interested in living a similar life, but don’t know where to start. After touring the joint, they usually leave with a basket of fresh-picked (or home-canned) goodies, some free seeds from the regional seed library I steward, and a ton of new ideas to implement in their own humble backyard homestead. Even when I’m not home, I have welcome visitors: neighborhood kids come visit the hens and give them scratch grains, while their parents check out homestead-themed books housed in the Little Free Library next to the Big Coop. If I should be the lucky winner of this prize package, I plan to share the wealth: the gift certificate for Peaceful Valley will be shared with the folks at our Community Garden up the block, which supplies the local food pantry with fresh veggies in season and can always use tools, seeds, or other handy garden supplies, and the Storey titles will be gladly added to the ones already tucked into the Little Free Library — hooray for more knowledge! Of course, I plan to read them first — probably on some late afternoon while lounging on the deck in the orchard, while the hens enjoy some range time in the backyard and I relax with a home brew. So you see, not only will the prize help grow MY homestead, but it’ll help grow the homestead dreams of all sorts of people in my community. In my view, a homestead is more than your own patch of grass, it’s a whole world of living where you’re at — and a gift such as this prize is one that I’m really going to love sharing!”

Cris will receive a prize package worth over $500, including:

  • A potting bench
  • $200 toward homesteading supplies from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply
  • 10 Storey books of choice
We look forward to sharing a profile of Cris in the May issue of The Short Storey.

Our two runners-up, Susan Laun of Pennsylvania, whose essay-in-verse was a stand-out entry, and Ryan Goertzen of South Dakota, a recent college graduate whose passion for organic farming leads him to dream of owning an organic farm and CSA, will each receive 3 Storey books of choice.

Thanks to everyone for their wonderful entry essays. Congratulations to our winners — and happy homesteading!


Many thanks to Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply for making our March giveaway possible with their generous gift card donation. Be sure to check out their website and explore all of their farm, garden, and homesteading wares!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Friday Favorites: Post-Craftcation Habits


Within a few weeks of my arrival at Storey last July, our publisher, Deborah Balmuth, handed me a copy of the 2013 Craftcation program guide and said, “You should really go to this.”

If you’re someone who sells the things you make by hand and you don’t know about Craftcation, Craftcation fever is one bug you probably want to catch. It’s part networking opportunity for makers and indie business owners, and part crafting vacation in the beachy city of Ventura, California. Storey is lucky enough to support and attend Craftcation, along with authors like Kari Chapin, and it’s an amazing opportunity to see and hear what the community of creative makers is up to. On a personal level, it was a first real opportunity for me to step out from behind the computer to meet some of the people who enjoy Storey books. 

Thursday night dinner program

But as we drove from LAX to Ventura (with views of strawberry fields forever!), I’ll confess that I started to feel a little nervous. Within the first few minutes of being in Ventura, I could already spot them, these talented and committed crafters and artists and artisanal foodies who had flocked to Ventura for the next few days to talk business and swap stories. They are unmistakable: they wear bold prints and flowers in their hair! They’re talking about their Etsy shops! And when they come together at Craftcation, they are practically vibrating with energy and excitement. I started to worry. Though I enjoy knitting and love to bake, I don’t have a small business and I have never called myself a maker. How much would I be able to connect with this dynamic group? Would they peg me as a lurker? An admiring non-maker?

Sewer or not, perusing the fabric selection at Super Buzzy in Ventura is an intoxicating experience.

But if you know anything about people who come from the world of makers, you know their great love of sharing their passion and their skills. After all, somewhere along the line, someone taught them how to do what they do, and as keynote speaker Lisa Congdon reminded us in her illustrated talk about embracing the abyss and taking risks, most of us are in a perpetual state of learning. Sharing that learning makes it less terrifying. It connects us. And though I don’t own sell my cookies in a shop and can’t draw to save my life and I’ve never touched a sewing machine, I still heard echoes of my experiences in the workshops, classes, and conversations the Craftcation community shared over our few days together.

Take a craft break on the beach.

Maybe you’ve been to Craftcation and so you know these things firsthand. Maybe you’re already thinking about Craftcation 2015. Make it happen! But be prepared for unexpected side effects.  Here are a few I’ve experienced since my return.

1. You wonder why people sitting at the bar aren’t making something while they drink. The more time you spend at Craftcation, the stranger it seems to stand in a line somewhere or walk into a restaurant or bar and not find someone balancing an embroidery hoop beside a cocktail or beer. (Put those iPhones down, people! This is better.)

2. You’re ready to do killer photo shoots in your bathroom.  With your sheets of light gray poster board propped up with an iron, the collection of vintage thimbles (because small things in great quantities make photos beautiful), and the ladder you’ve crammed between the toilet and the sink to get just the right angle to shoot photos of the things you make, you’re ready to go. Or maybe you just use the light box you learned how to build at the conference.

3. You’re still Tweeting #craftcation14 and will be for the foreseeable future. Photos. Recaps. Declarations. Post-conference goals. Tutorials for the workshops you missed (or just want to recreate at home). People wearing the dresses they made, and embroidering inspirational phrases. Photos of amazing antique and fabric store finds. Washi tape

A washi tape welcome from Nicole and Delilah
4. You see washi tape everywhere. In the days leading up to the conference, Delilah and Nicole, the founders of Craftcation, mailed us a box with multiple rolls of washi tape as a welcome. And washi tape was everywhere at Craftcation 2014: on the hotel walls, on the tables at lunch, on conference community boards, on notebooks, on soda bottle centerpieces, and even on fingernails. We became accustomed to seeing it everywhere. On the last leg of our flight home from California, Deborah and I sat in the first row behind the wall that divides first class from coach. The wall in front of us had some aerodynamic, swooping lines. We were tired and it had been a long day; we had still had our heads in the creative-maker clouds. Deborah reached out and ran an index finger along a navy blue swoop on the wall. Then she giggled and turned to me. “I thought it was washi tape,” she said. 

5. You adorn the walls of your house and other inanimate objects with inspirational sayings. Every maker knows it, but there’s something infectious about spending intense periods of time with creative people. You suddenly find yourself wanting to make something, too, or take that new skill you learned in a workshop and use it already! It helps when the very walls of the room you’re sitting in and the tote bag you’re carrying are bedecked with bold declarations like “MAKE IT HAPPEN” and “There is Beauty in the Process.”

Conference mornings look like this.

Whatever other post-Craftcation habits may develop for us in the coming weeks, there’s an undeniable energy (and maybe a little glow from that California sun) that came back to the East Coast with us, a welcome Craftcation stow-away in our luggage. Thanks, Delilah, Nicole, attendees, teachers, and makers all, for letting us be a part of this one-of-a-kind event! We had a blast.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lucie Snodgrass: Dyeing Eggs the Swiss Way

Easter arrives late this year, but author Lucie Snodgrass writes that there’s no need to wait to dye eggs. Decorating eggs is a fun, memorable way to capture and celebrate the naturally occurring colors and patterns of the season — especially when using plant ingredients to achieve truly unique results.


Decorating eggs is a fun activity that kids and adults can do together, and one that sticks in children’s memories long after the chocolate bunnies and jelly beans have melted or been eaten.

Growing up in a Swiss family that emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1960s, we eschewed store-bought coloring kits in favor of a more traditional egg dyeing process that used onion skins for color, and flowers, leaves, and other natural materials to create designs on the eggs. It’s a practice that I continued with my own boys and that I still love today. The flowers and grasses — which come mostly from the garden, depending on whether early spring flowers like crocuses, daffodils, and Lenten roses are blooming — are carefully layered on a bare white egg, which then is wrapped in brown or red onion skins that envelop the whole egg. When wrapped in white cloth fastened with string and boiled all together, the onion skins dye the eggs a pleasing mocha (or pinkish purple) color and the pressed flowers and grass create interesting and unique patterns on the egg’s surface. No two eggs are alike and, best of all, for kids who aren’t especially artistic, there is no right or wrong way to decorate the eggs. Each one turns out beautifully, and some of the prettiest eggs I’ve seen came from clumsy fingers like mine and not from the hands of perfectionist artists (like my sister, Alexandra).


When my siblings and I were young, the lead-up to Easter meant two things: packages full of chocolate from our grandmother in Switzerland (all of which disappeared into some secret closet until the Easter egg hunt) and dyeing Easter eggs with our father, a cherished tradition.

A few days before Easter we would go with him to our local supermarket where we methodically pinched onion skins from big, round onions and collected them all in a bag. (Believe it or not, in Switzerland they actually sell little bags of onion skins for dying!) As an adult, I’ve often wondered whether anyone thought it odd that a family seemed so interested in onions that they stood in front of a store’s onion supply for long periods of time. Similarly, I’ve imagined how peculiar the cashiers must have found it to ring up a bag that was 95 percent onion skins and five percent onions, but they never questioned us and our onion skins always made it home safely.



Equal in importance to the onion skins were the materials we collected to create the patterns on the eggs.  Grape hyacinths and crocuses were always popular, as were fern leaves, grasses, and anything that might either transfer some color to the egg or create a distinctive marking. If Easter was early and the garden was still bare, we used houseplant leaves and even store-bought blooms, but most years we managed to scavenge enough supplies to decorate the eggs. The only other supplies we procured were raw white eggs, old cloth that we cut into pieces large enough to envelop an egg, and twine to tie the egg packages at the neck. After that, the boiling water and nature took over. We never could predict exactly what the eggs would turn out looking like, but I remember never being disappointed, either. Once the timer went off we eagerly crowded around the big pot, taking turns to cut the strings and unwrap the eggs, oohing and aahing at each one.

Unlike the brightly colored eggs that most American families produced, our Easter eggs blended in so well in the garden that it was often hard to find them, a fact that just added to the fun and challenge of the Easter morning egg hunt ritual. 


Making Your Own Swiss Easter Eggs

If you’d like to try making your Easter eggs the Swiss way, you’ll need just a few supplies:

1 dozen white eggs, uncooked
Enough onion skins to wrap the dozen eggs
Flower blossoms, grass, ferns, etc., for decorating the eggs
Cloth squares for wrapping the egg packages
Twine for tying the egg bundles
A large pot filled with boiling water

Directions:
  1. Collect your materials and lay them out in order, with the eggs first, then the flowers and grasses, followed by the onion skins, the cloth squares, and the twine. Meanwhile, put on a large pot of water to boil.  
  2. Carefully pick up an egg, holding it between your thumb and forefinger. With the other hand, select some flowers or other decorations from your pile and place some of them against the eggshell. This is the trickiest part: you need to try to hold the flowers in place so that they cover the egg’s surface. 
  3. Next, pick up an onion skin and carefully place the egg inside of it, again trying to make sure that the flowers and leaves are pressed against the egg’s shell. If the onion skin isn’t big enough to cover the whole egg, use as many other skins as needed to cover it completely. Again, you will need to use your fingers to hold the skins in place.  
  4. Pick up a piece of cloth and carefully wrap it around the onion skins, creating a little package with the extra material bunched at the top of the egg. Tie twine around the bunched material as tightly as possible, taking care not to break the egg.
  5. Place the egg bundles in a large pot of gently boiling water and cook for ten minutes.
  6. Remove the eggs from the heat and run under cold water. Let the eggs cool for five minutes and then cut open the string and unwrap the package. If desired, dry and then coat the egg with vegetable oil to create a sheen. 
  7. Refrigerate the eggs until you are ready to use them. Eggs will store for several weeks this way. 
Photos courtesy of Lucie Snodgrass.

Lucie Snodgrass is an award-winning author whose writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, and Vegetarian Times, where she was a regular columnist and contributing editor. She is the author of Dishing Up® Maryland, and blogs about her travels at Bird in Paradise. Se lives, writes, and cooks in Annapolis. 
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