Ostara Fun for Everyone

eggs

The spring equinox is upon us, and the girls and I have been having fun getting ready.  While looking for ideas of things to do with them, I noticed a serious lack of information on the Web about how to include small children in Pagan/Wiccan celebrations.  So I thought I’d share what we do with you.  If you are looking for some other great ideas, I highly recommend the book Circle Round by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill.  It is chock-full of stories, songs, and craft ideas.

I’ve been telling them the story of Persephone and reading them Rupert’s Tales, story-poems about a sweet little rabbit who is learning about the different Pagan holidays.  We’ve been listening to a lot of Ostara Songs, but the big favorite is by Lisa Thiel.  Laurel likes to sing along with that one, even if she gets most of the words wrong.

Yesterday we made Ostara cookies, because nothing says “spring” more than the marriage of eggs, butter, and flour.  Get the recipe for these super good gluten free sugar cookies here.  We painted them with “cookie paint” before they were baked.  Just mix half an egg yolk with a smidgen of water and some food coloring, then let your little artists have at it.

Cookies are good for any reason, any season.

Cookies are good for any reason, any season.

Today we dyed Ostara eggs.  What makes Ostara eggs different from Easter eggs?  Not a dang thing.  I wish I could tell you that I made my very own all natural dyes from different plants, but I would be lying.  I am too sick and tired to do that stuff right now.  So a Paas egg dying kit from Target was what we used.  For the record, the “magic crayon” that comes with it is useless.  I was so let down that my pretty designs didn’t show up.  Thankfully, the girls didn’t care.

Laurel made all of the pink eggs.

Laurel made all of the pink eggs.

Since eggs are such a big part of Ostara, tomorrow we’ll be celebrating by eating Ham, Egg, and Potato Bake off of the adorable plates that the girls picked out at Target.  For dessert it is traditional to have custard, but I’m making a bunny shaped vanilla cake with coconut icing.  Because….cake.

Seriously, how cute are these?!

Seriously, how cute are these?!

Long before dinner, however, the girls will wake up to their Ostara “baskets.”  Traditionally, these would be made from wicker or grape vines or some other lovely natural material.  But my girls get baskets as Easter.  This year for Ostara they are getting metal pails filled with gardening supplies.  Then we will plant the little seeds they got in mason jars, so they can watch them grow.

My herbs are already sprouting!

My herbs are already sprouting!

I don’t think we are going to actually hide any eggs for the girls to find this year, since it is still pretty cold outside and our new puppy would eat anything we hid in the house, but they will enjoy eating them all the same.  Luckily, they are still to young to know any differently.  And before you get up in arms about the lack of candy in their buckets, have no fear…. they will get plenty next month when they get to pretty much do all of this over again, but on a much bigger scale.

Happy Ostara!

 

The Junk Food Tirade

I’ve gotten some flack lately for posting about baking and eating cookies with the girls.  Apparently I’m starting them out with an unhealthy food lifestyle.  I am beginning their addiction to sugar and empty carbs.  They should only be eating whole, organic, raw foods.  How dare I give my precious sweet, innocent babies those poison pucks so commonly known as cookies?!  At first I was highly amused by this.  (WooHoo! I have haters!)  Then it kind of pissed me off.  Because, really, you have no idea what I feed my kids the other 99% of the time.

cookie-monster

You have no idea that I’m a health food snob.  Because I don’t write about that.  Its boring.  No one wants to know about how the girls love fruit and nuts and organic, free-range, grass fed beef.  Should I write a post about the well balanced, mostly vegetarian meals I provide for them?  Yawn.  Sure, I’ll probably share some great healthy recipes with you at some point.  I just haven’t gotten around to it.  It’s the holidays.  We made cookies.  We ate cookies.  Deal with it.

This is what most of our meals look like, thankyouverymuch.

This is what most of our meals look like, thankyouverymuch.

If you want to complain about kids eating junk food, I can do that with the best of them.  I can bitch and moan about how our society feels the need to push sweets on our kids for every freaking “special” occasion they can think of.  And how I can’t stand that I get the stink eye when I tell people not to offer my kids junk food.  Like I’m the bad guy.  In fact, I can even break it down in numbers to show just how much junk our kids are getting once they hit elementary school.  And I will.

Say there are 30 kids in your kid’s class.  All of their parents bring in cupcakes for their respective birthdays.  That is one month of cupcakes over the course of the school year.  Add in the class’ holiday celebrations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas (“winter”), Easter (“spring”), and possibly Valentines day and the end of the school year.  That is six more days of junk.  Now, suppose your kid is moderately popular and is invited to 10 birthday parties, where they will gorge on cake and ice cream.  We’re up to 46 days.  If your kid is in any activities, there are bound to be soccer celebrations, Girl Scout cookie parties, and Sunday school soirees.  Add in your “occasional” treats at home over a year’s time, which we’ll say is a conservative 11 times.  We have now hit 60 days of junk food.  That is TWO MONTHS of crap.  And we haven’t even talked about actual holiday celebrations.  We haven’t hit on family birthdays, Halloween candy that lasts a month, Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies for two weeks, Valentines day candy for a week, Easter candy for two weeks, and ice cream for Independence day.  It could easily total at three to four months worth of days where your kid is eating junk.  Or more.

marshmallow10cake

My girls?  They don’t get all of that.  They aren’t in grade school yet, and even when they are I intend to send them to a Waldorf-style charter school where I don’t have to worry about junk food being seen as a reward.  They aren’t in any activities yet.  When we do bake at home, we generally make healthy versions of whatever we are craving.  Ellie would rather eat crackers than cookies, so I’m more concerned with her salt intake than her sugar levels.  Laurel has a sweet tooth, but I know I can give her fruit and she’ll be content.

I don’t keep junk in the house.  I don’t buy it.  Because if I do buy it, I will eat it.  Oh God, will I eat it.  I’ll eat it in one sitting, hiding in the laundry room from the kids so I don’t have to share it.  I have no will power.  And I don’t want my kids to see that or inherit that, so I remove the temptation.

Except at Christmas time.  Because the holidays are a time to let your guard down a bit, to have some fun and make some memories with the kids.  The holidays are a time to eat some damn cookies.

Noms!

Noms!

Painting Cookies!

They look good enough to eat...all in one sitting!

They look good enough to eat…all in one sitting!

Today Laurel and I made cut-out cookies.  I wanted to make up for making cookie-looking non-cookie ornaments the other day.  Because I’m all about fairness.  And baked goods.

The fates smiled upon our house today, and Laurel was on her best, most adorable behavior.  So after we put Ellie on the school bus we broke out the cookie dough we made yesterday.  Laurel picked out which cookie cutters to use, and helped to cut the dough.  The only fuss she made was when I wouldn’t let her roll the dough out herself.  (That’s a quick way for it to end up on the floor!)  She told me how many of each shape to make, and we had a great time.  Then it was off to the table to decorate them!

If you have ever made cut-out cookies with a young child, you have seen the way they apply sprinkles.  Usually it involves 1/2 an inch of colored sugar on top of each cookie, non of which actually melts, and it just gets everywhere.  So I wanted some kind of (less messy) alternative to sprinkles.  Enter…..Cookie Paint!

Picture 027

Paint + Cookies = One happy Lil’ Bear!

I remembered seeing a post somewhere at some point about making cookie paint out of egg yolk and food coloring, so I decided we’d give that a shot.  And it worked great!  Laurel loves to paint more than anything in the world, so it was a natural fit.  I decided on a limited pallet of colors, and only made red, green, and blue.  The blue didn’t really want to come out blue because our egg yolks were very yellow.  So it was sort of greenish, but I didn’t really care that much.  If you want a truer blue, I’d try using the egg whites.  I’m not sure how that will turn out, though. It might make them extra crispy.  You’ll need to add a bit of water to the yolk/food color mixture as well, to thin it out a bit.  And you don’t need much of it.  I probably could have split the yolks up and used only half a yolk per color, instead of a whole one.  In any case, I love how they turned out.  The paint got really shiny and pretty.  We will definitely do this again!

Truly Scrumptious

Truly Scrumptious

Gluten Free Cut-Out Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cup gluten free flour (I used King Arthur’s Multipurpose Flour)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xantham gum

– Cream the butter and sugar together.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Mix in the dry ingredients.
– Form the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap, and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour.
– Preheat the oven to 350 F.
– Roll a chunk of the dough out on a floured surface until it is about 1/4 inch thick.  Remember to flour your rolling pin (or wine bottle or other rolling implement).
– Break out your favorite cookie cutters and have at it.  Remember to dip the cutters in flour if they start to stick.
– Put the cookies on a cookie sheet.  Use parchment paper if your heart desires it.  I don’t bother.
– Take the left over dough and squish it up with another chunk of the unused dough.  Repeat the rolling/cutting steps until your cookie sheets are full.
– PUT THE REST OF THE DOUGH BACK IN THE FRIDGE.  Otherwise, while you decorate the first batch, your dough will get too soft and sticky and you’ll never get it rolled out.  Trust me.
– Decorate your first batch of cookies however you want.
– Pop those cookies in the oven for 8-10 minutes.
– Cool on wire racks.
– Once you have a free cookies sheet, get the rest of the dough out of the fridge and start rolling/cutting.  You get the point.
– Devour.

 

Cookie Paint

1 egg yolk per color
1/4 teaspoon water per color
a few drops of food coloring

In small bowls, containers, or ramekins mix up a yolk, the water, and some food coloring.
Make sure you use CLEAN paintbrushes.  Not the ones your kids were using the other day that you just sort of half-assed rinsed out.  Either use new brushes or give the ones you have a proper cleaning with dish soap and hot water.  Use a different brush for each color; don’t try to rinse between colors. It will water down the paint too much.Again, if you use yolks that are a dark yellow, you may have problems with some of the colors.  I had to add a lot of red to make the paint red, not orange.  You can try the egg whites, but I haven’t tested that theory yet.
Paint the cookies!