These are fun.  We made them as a little homeschool science project.  EVERYONE in the family thought these were awesome, and we had enough to give a couple to some of my son's friends who are fascinated with rocks.  My next-door-neighbor, the Webelos Scout leader, pointed to a pile of broken rocks on her sidewalk.  "This,"  she said, "was what we did so the boys could feel like they might find a geode- we gave them hammers and rocks from our yard.  We should have made these instead!"

They'd love them too.

These would make some amazing and unusual Easter eggs, too:  make a bunch the same size and wrap two halves together to form a ball.

Edible Geodes
Crystal-growing solution (Rock candy syrup)
1 ½ c. sugar
½ c. water
Mix the two, heat on high in a small saucepan, and stir until the sugar completely dissolves.  Add several drops food color if you want, along with ½ tsp. flavoring (optional). Let cool a bit while you make the rock shells.

Rock Shell (Marshmallow Fondant)
8 ounces marshmallows
2-4 Tbsp. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
¼ c. coconut oil or shortening

Mix marshmallows with 2 Tb. water in a microwave-safe bowl, heat for 30 seconds in microwave.  Stir.  Microwave 30 seconds more, stir. Repeat until it’s melted and smooth.  Add the powdered sugar and mix with a spoon and then with your hands.  Spread 1 Tbsp. coconut oil on clean counter, knead the fondant on top adding more coconut oil when needed.   When smooth and stiff, take half of it and set aside.  Take other half and knead in ¼ c. cocoa powder to make fondant brown.  Roll out ¼“ thick.  Roll out the white half to the same size and stack them on top of each other.    Line a few bowls with aluminum foil, sprayed with nonstick spray.  Cut a piece of the two-layer fondant to fit, and line a bowl with it, with the brown side touching the foil.  Repeat until you run out.   Trim off any fondant that is beyond the lip of the bowl, using scissors.  Set aside.

Pour the sugar syrup into the fondant-lined bowls.  Let them sit, undisturbed, for at least a day (or 2-3 days for bigger crystals).  When ready, break the surface and pour off the syrup. Turn the geodes upside down to drain for an hour.  They’re ready! 

 
 
OK, OK, I know it's a whole three days after Easter, but this is still fun.  We don't have to totally forget about a holiday after we've passed it, right?  (The real reason this is delayed is that I spent the last week in a beautiful, very green place with no phone connection, no cell phone signal, and no Internet connection.  This was ready to publish, I just couldn't get to the button.)  

How about something fluffy and NOT sugary?  This is a fun craft for kids anytime and has some deeper Easter meaning. It's simple but will keep them occupied for a little while.  How about making a whole flock of sheep?  He shall feed his flock like a  shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 41:11)

You'll need only 
  • 1 sheet of newspaper
  • Tape
  • Cotton balls
  • 4 straws
  • Glue
  • White paper
  • Black marker

You can find the instructions at http://www.lds.org/friend/2013/03/easter-activities?lang=eng

What about some other animals?
 
 
A friend sent me instructions for making Easter Story Cookies.  I tweaked the ingredients, tweaked the instructions, and changed some of the scriptures to ones I thought my younger ones would relate to.  (In other words, I don't know whose idea this originally was, but should no longer be considered plagiarism.:) 
This is a sweet way to bring some of the real meaning of Easter into your home!  For more Easter ideas, click on the "Easter" category on the right.

Mix these cookies the evening before Easter, they sit in the oven overnight, as an Easter morning surprise.

You will need:
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
Wooden spoon
Waxed paper or parchment
Masking tape
Bible

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (This is important, so don’t wait until you’re half-way done with the recipe).

Smell the vinegar. Put 1 tsp. into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30 or Psalms 69:21

Add egg whites to the vinegar.
Explain that eggs represent life. Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:9-11.

Sprinkle a little salt into each hand. Taste it and brush the rest into the bowl.
Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and bitterness of our sins.  Show the wooden spoon, it represents the cross he carried and was nailed to.
Read Luke 23:27.

With a mixer, beat on high speed until soft peaks form.
Explain that the color white represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3.

So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 3/4 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, as you continue to whip.  Keep mixing until they reach stiff peaks.
Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. It wasn’t the nails that kept Him on the cross because nothing earthly could have. It was His love for us! Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16.

Fold in the nuts using the wooden spoon. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60.

Put the cookie sheet in the oven and close the door and turn the oven OFF! Each person places a piece of masking tape and seals the oven door. Read Matthew 27:62-66

Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20, 22.

On Easter morning, watch the 4-minute video “He is Risen”, then open the oven and give everyone a cookie.

Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow!

Explain that on the first Easter, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty.  Suggested scriptures to read: John chapter 20 (5 minutes), 1 Corinthians 15:22 (two lines), Mosiah 16:6-9 (one minute).

Happy Easter, Everyone! Christ Lives & Loves Us!

 
 
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Click on the photo to watch the 'He Is Risen' Bible video.

There's a whole Life of Christ series available, as well.

I know that Jesus Christ lived, that he atoned for our sins, that he voluntarily gave up his own life for us, and that he was resurrected and lives today.  I'm grateful for this.  I know he will return at his Second Coming, and I try to live by his example of love for God and all others.  I know this brings happiness; the better I am at following Him, the happier and more fulfilling my life is. 

May you feel His love for you as we celebrate Resurrection Sunday.
 
 
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My kids hate the smell of vinegar.  One option is to skip the dye entirely, and just decorate eggs with ribbon (as in this photo), markers, paint, string, decoupage, or whatever...

but there's something about dyeing eggs that takes me back to childhood memories of sitting on tall stools around the kitchen counter, dunking eggs with those flimsy metal dippers. 

So I just have to dye eggs.

(If you want to color eggs using natural dyes, there's a link at the bottom to a previous post.)

Why, though, do all instructions seem to call for using vinegar?  Some of the newer kits have the vinegar built in to the tablets, but it's still there.  What does it do? 

I ran some searches, did some experimenting, and here's what I've learned:

Several people online said it's to make the dye darker.  Someone else said you could use salt instead.  So I started looking into the science of why.

Vinegar is acidic.  Egg shells are mostly calcium carbonate, which is alkaline.  Put them together, and they react, dissolving some of the egg shell.  I put a hardboiled egg into straight vinegar and left it overnight.  In the morning, only a thin layer of shell remained, and by late afternoon, there was no more shell; only the flexible inner membrane was left.

Adding vinegar to the dye bath helps etch the shell, roughening the surface (increasing surface area) and thus allowing it to receive more dye.

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If that was the case, then, shouldn't other acidic ingredients work?  What if I don't have vinegar on hand?  And would it work as well to just add vinegar to the water the eggs are hardboiled in, and not need vinegar in the dye bath?   Here's how the experiments turned out:

The deepest, most even color was from vinegar in the dye, followed closely by the eggs boiled in vinegar water.  Lemon juice did pretty well but yielded more color marbling.  The dye using plain water (no acid) gave me a much paler and less evenly colored egg.

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The salt water dye (using 2 tsp. salt in 1 cup water, producing the egg on the left) was slightly better than plain water, but not much.  Salt is a mordant, which means it physically or chemically helps the dye bind to the surface, but it did not work well here. 

So I'll go back to vinegar when I want deeply colored eggs.  Here are the amounts I used:

1 cup water
10 drops liquid food color (you can use less)
1 Tbsp. vinegar (or lemon juice)

Or, to restrict the smell of vinegar to a one-time boil, add 1/4 c. vinegar in 1 quart of water, hardboil as usual.  I'll tell my kids they can either stay inside where the smell is, or go outside and pull weeds...

Happy coloring!

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Are you ready for some kitchen fun now?
 
 
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It's easy to go along with the commercial aspects of Easter- 

But what can I do with my family to focus on its real meaning?

Yes, those Easter eggs have symbolism, but I want to go beyond that.  Usually we have a Family Home Evening the Monday before Easter, where we read the Easter story in the New Testament, and talk about the symbols we see this time of year- eggs for the seemingly lifeless tomb, chicks for new life, lambs for The Lamb of God who was their Passover.  But this year I wanted something each day for a week, something to learn and remember what our Savior did during his final week in mortality.  Something to help pull us into his life.

The April 2011 Friend magazine had something I'll use this year.  If you follow their suggested timeline, that begins today, two Saturdays before Easter itself.   Here's a quick day-by-day summary of it and some ideas of what to do each day; see the original article for more details.  

Our standard day starts with a song and family prayer (playing the 'hymn of the week' is the call to be awake and in the living room- it sure beats hollering down the stairs every day!)- we can have a new song each day this Easter week, to fit with the timeline below.  We sing the same song in the evening right before that family prayer, as well.  (If -WHEN!- someone is still talking or not kneeling, we sing the last phrase over again.  This is repeated until they're ready.  Usually it takes only once.  Except for some nights.   Again, it sure beats telling them to be quiet and get ready!)

Saturday, 8 days before Easter: Jesus walked to Bethany for a place to stay during Passover. See  John 12:1–3.
Song: Come, Follow Me
To do:  Point out that many people have traveled to Temple Square for the LDS General Conference (and we'll be watching or listening).  There is a great article on the symbolism of the Passover itself, by John Pratt; during our family scripture study we can talk about the symbolism.  There's a shorter summary in the LDS Bible Dictionary.

Sunday, one week before Easter: Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey; the people greeted Him as their king, shouting Hosanna (Save Us Now) and paving his pathway with palm leaves.  Also known as Palm Sunday, for this reason.  See Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1–11; Mark 11:1–11.
Song: Joy to the World (really!  look at those lyrics!) or Easter Hosanna
To do Watch a Bible Video: The Lord's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem                   

Monday: Cleansing the temple, to make it more holy.  See Matthew 21:12–17; Mark 11:15–19.
Song: I Love to See the Temple, or The Lord Gave Me a Temple (or if you want to learn a less-familiar one, try God is In His Holy Temple)
To do: Each person find some place in their room that needs cleaned and organized- and take care of it!  Also, have a Family Home Evening & lesson. :-) 

Tuesday: He taught in the temple and on the Mount of Olives.  He healed the blind and lame.  Judas agreed with the priests to betray Him. SeeMatthew 25:31–46; 26:14–16.
Song: Jesus Said Love Everyone   
To Do: Pick some spring flowers and take them to someone sick, lonely, or bedridden.

Wednesday: We don't know what he did this day.  See Matthew 25:1–13.
Song: I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus, or Build An Ark
To Do: Reading the Parable of the Ten Virgins is one idea (illustrated version here), print this activity;  or learn more about the Passover that Christ was there to offer. 

Thursday: His disciples got ready for and ate the Passover meal.  This became what we call The Last Supper, he also gave them the sacrament for the first time.  After singing a hymn, they went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  After his Atonement there, the priests found and arrested him.  See Matthew 26:17–29, 36–56.
Song: I Stand All Amazed
To Do: At dinner, serve one or more of the traditional Passover foods.  You might even manage having a Seder plate and ask The Four Questions; that would require some advance studying!   Chabad.org is a great site for this.

Friday: He was questioned by Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, and condemned to die.  He was crucified, died, and hurriedly laid in a borrowed tomb.  In Jerusalem, the veil of the temple tore and there was darkness for three hours.  In the Americas, there was a terrible storm for three hours, followed by complete dark until the third day. See Matthew 26:57–72; 27:1–2, 27–37; Luke 23:44–46, 50–56, 3 Nephi 8:5-23.
Song: O Savior, Thou Who Wearest a Crown, or There Is a Green Hill Far Away
To Do:  Have dinner by candlelight (yes, we'll have to shut the drapes because it's too light outside!) to remember the dark these people experienced.  Watch The Last Supper.
 Older children could watch Jesus Is Scourged and Crucified, but my littlest ones would be very disturbed by it.

Saturday
:
Jesus' body lay in the tomb, the door covered with a large stone, guarded by order of the wicked priests.  In the Americas, it was still dark.  See Matthew 27:57–66  and 3 Nephi 9:12-22.
Song: To Think About Jesus      
To Do:  We have our Easter Egg hunt on Saturday-  to keep the "fluff stuff" away from the real holiday/holy-day.  

Easter Sunday: Jesus was resurrected!  An angel rolled the stone away, Mary Magdalene and others saw him.  He told them to teach and baptize others. See Matthew 28 Some time after His resurrection, he also visited the people in the Americas, see 3 Nephi 11:1-17.
Song: Christ the Lord is Risen Today
To Do: Watch the sunrise and think about the beauty of the earth and the sacrifices its Creator made for us.  Have each child and parent write a favorite scripture on the back of a small picture of Jesus.  Each person gives theirs to another  family member.  (Hopefully this encourages them to really think about which scripture to write!)      Watch all the Bible videos about the Savior's ministry.  

Some other meaningful Easter ideas can be found in the New Era magazine and  The Ensign

May we all have an Easter that helps connect us with family and our Savior!
 
 
Happy Easter! and good Passover!  For a short video about our Savior's role, and what this week means to us, see His Sacred Name: An Easter Declaration.  I'm grateful to have this holiday as a reminder of His life and willingness to do our Heavenly Father's will.  Eggs remind us of the promise of life from something that looks only like lifeless, tomb-like stone.
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The yellow eggs were dyed using curry powder, the orange ones used onion skins.

When you dye eggs using natural colors, put water, a little vinegar, the eggs, and your 'dye' in a pan.  Boil to both cook the eggs and set the color. (See here to get The Perfect Hardboiled Egg.)  The colors tend to be softer and often muted- you won't get stop-sign-red anywhere.  Each egg ends up a little bit unique, though.  That's part of the beauty.  The vinegar helps the dye penetrate and set.  Use about 1 Tbsp for every 2-3 cups of water.

I'd heard that eggs should be washed first, to prepare the shells to accept the dyes.  I tried it and noticed no appreciable difference between the washed and unwashed eggs.  So save yourself the time.  Use eggs straight from the carton.  Or chicken, if you're so fortunate.  (NOTE:  the older the egg is, the easier it wil peel!)

For cool effects:
Before cooking/dyeing
:
-draw on it with crayons
-wrap it with rubber bands or yarn
-dab, wipe, or drizzle on a little oil or melted wax.
-put 1 Tbsp. oil in the cooking/dyeing water.  This will make some marbled irregularities on the eggs.

After cooking/dyeing:
-sprinkle with salt while still wet
-for a more marbled or mottled egg, rub it a little while it's still warm.  Or pat/rub with paper towels. 
-let the eggs cool while still draped, wrapped, or sprinkled with what you used to dye it.  (See photos.)
-partially- or completely- submerge in another dye.  
-draw on it with markers when dry

To make it gleam, rub a little vegetable oil on the egg after it has cooled.

Ideas for dyes:
Blue to Purple- grape juice, red grapes, blueberries, red cabbage, blackberries, violets
Brown- white oak bark, juniper berry, coffe, barberry twigs, black tea
Buff- crushed walnut shells, green tea
Golden Orange- onionskins (yellow onions)
Orange- turmeric, ground cumin, onionskins plus beet juice
Mauve- grape juice
Green- spinach, kale, alfalfa, parsley, carrot tops.  Or dye an egg yellow then dip in blue dye.
Pink- beet juice- let eggs sit for 30 minutes in it (liquid from a can of beets, or from cooking them)
Reddish Purple- paprika, skins from red onions; beets- boil in the juice, shredded, sliced, or chopped Yellow- Boil with 1-3 Tbsp. turmeric or curry powder, or dye when already cooked- use 1 tsp. turmeric and 1/4 tsp. vinegar in 2/3 c. boiling water
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These were dyed using 1 Tbsp. curry powder in just enough water to cover the eggs. The two lighter eggs were pulled out immediately when fully cooked. The others were cooled in the colored water, with a tray of ice cubes added to help them stop cooking.

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Fill the pan with eggs, stuff it as full as you can with your dye (onionskins, here), and bring it to a boil.
If you're using a spice or a powder, use 1-3 Tbsp.

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For comparison:
Clockwise, starting with upper left: (1) boiled and drained to cool; (2) boiled and covered with wet onionskins while cooling, (3) boiled and left in the hot dye until completely cool, (5) plain white store egg, (6) plain brown store egg.

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Each egg ends up a little marbled, a little unique.  I  find them fascinating to look at.

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Any place your fingers, spoon, pan, paper towels, or other eggs touch, the dye will be lighter.