Easter Egg fun with natural dye

This is my all-time favourite Easter activity that I won’t ever skip. I’ve decorated eggs like this ever since I was a little child with my Mum in Switzerland, and I love the deep red tones of these eggs so much more than any more brightly coloured ones. And no matter how careful you are when “wrapping” them up, the result is ALWAYS a surprise. Kids love doing this.

Once you’re done, you won’t only have pretty eggs, they are also perfectly edible, ideal for an Easter brunch.

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • ca. 6 raw eggs (ideally white ones (for contrast), but any eggs will do. Today, I used brown ones, because this is what I get here in the UK.
  • The skins of about 10 onions (to roughly fill half a cooking pot). The more you put in, the stronger the contrast.) Today, because I was a bit low on onions, I also added a black teabag to the mix.
  • old stockings or tights (clean, ideally…)
  • rubber bands (optional)
  • lots of leaves and bits of grass. I like clover, and any leaf that is young and thin and will stick well to the egg

METHOD

  1. prepare your “broth”: fill roughly half a pan full of water (to sufficiently cover the eggs when boiling), and fill in the onion skins and teabag if using. Bring to boil and simmer for a few minutes (the longer you simmer, the stronger the colour).

2. Take your egg, and gently cover it in any pattern of leaves as you please. You can use a little water to really stick the leaves to the shell. If “broth” gets underneath the leaf, the leaf pattern will come out “diluted”. You can use rubber bands to fix the leaves (they also create fun patterns). Then, put a bit of stocking over the egg, and tie tightly around it.

When you’re done, it should look something like this:

3. Stick your egg into the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes, or however long you like to boil your hard-boiled eggs for.

Then remove from the pan, and let cool. You can also stick them under cold water for easier peeling later, if you like. It won’t affect the colour.

4. When you’re ready, cut open your “stocking”, peel off rubber bands and leaves, and see what wonderful patterns nature has created for you :-). For extra shine and strength of colour, rub in a little oil. The egg is ready for you to eat whenever you’re ready (and no, it won’t taste of onions :-)).

HAPPY EASTER!

It’s cover reveal time!

I’m so very excited to share the gorgeous cover for Slobber Slobber Kiss Kiss, my forthcoming picture book with Helvetiq out in September 2019…and…drum rolls…here it is:

The German version for Slobber Slobber Kiss Kiss: Sabber Schlabber Kussi Bussi

And here comes the French version. Very aptly translated as: Slurp Slurp Smack Smack!

Elephant Inspiration

As I was tidying my desk today, I came across this little gem. Many years ago, I was part of a group of writers reading their works in progress to a roomful of children at the Library in English in Geneva. I read my then unpublished, unillustrated manuscript “The Elephant in the Room”, and then asked the children to draw the illustrations for it… This was the story that would eventually become “Zanna and the Something” – which is published next week at the Festival du Livre Jeunesse in Yverdon. One of the children gave me her illustration to keep – and keep it I did! This drawing has been giving me so much courage to keep writing over the years, to submit and re-submit my stories, even though writing can be so hard… Because this was the very first time that a child (outside my close family) was clearly inspired by something I had written – and that, all these years on, still makes me very, very happy :-).

On Synchronicity

As an inherently social person, I have often struggled with the loneliness of a writer’s life. But recently I learned that writing doesn’t have to be lonely. It doesn’t have to be slow, hard and painful. It doesn’t have to just be me chatting to my imaginary characters in my head, and occasionally swearing at the computer. Writing can be a fast, fun, and social process. I have been writing for six years, but never knew this. Now I’ve learned it’s possible – with a little help from synchronicity.

Whittling Away, the first book in the Forest Tools series, came about when my forest school trainer friend Toni and I chatted about a gap in the Forest School market in July 2018.

“You know,” said Toni, “wouldn’t it be cool to create a series of books that help forest school teachers teach children about tools in a safe but fun way.”

“Great idea,” I said, “let’s do that.”

That night, I went home and wrote a first draft of what would become Whittling Away. I wrote it in my hallway, sitting on the stairs, still in my coat. It took me about ten minutes to pin that story down.

As it happened, a few weeks before that I had met a publisher for educational books, Laura from Cambridge Thinking Press. When I approached her with Toni’s idea, she said: “Great idea, let’s do that.”

As it happened, Toni knew an illustrator, Tennie Videler, who also said: “Great idea, let’s do that!”

A mere eight months later we have now launched the Forest Tools series with Whittling Away, to be closely followed by three further volumes to complete the series: Lighting Away, Lopping Away, and Sawing Away.

Eight months from idea to publication. Now, eight months might seem long to those who don’t know much about publishing. Let me assure you, it’s not. It usually takes years to get a picture book published. (It has, in the past, taken me years just to get one written, let alone illustrated, sold and published…). To get a good book created from scratch in eight months is no mean feat, and it requires hard work and fairy dust. The fairy dust being this very beautiful but often elusive thing: synchronicity. Being in just the right place; at just the right time; with just the right people.

Toni with her deep knowledge of all things forest provided both Tennie and me with the ability to create a story that was educational, but also light-hearted and funny. Tennie, with her keen eye for detail and her talent for nature drawings, set to work straight away. And then there was Laura, of course, whose entrepreneurial spirit brought it all together in a cohesive way. Laura then found Rebecca to join the team, and her graphic design really makes this book sing.

All four of us just happened to be available and ready to launch ourselves into this major undertaking at the right time. All four of us were keen and willing to listen and learn from each other. We worked hard, but the process felt organic and, at times, almost effortless, with each of us in our own sphere of knowledge and ability, bouncing off each other’s creativity.

For me, Whittling Away is not just a book. It’s a tribute to synchronicity and happy collaboration. And a proof of how much fun writing can be. Now to move on to number 2 in the series…Lighting Away here we come!

Whittling Away is out on 27th April 2019 with Cambridge Thinking Press. You can get your copy here

Written by Anita Lehmann, illustrated by Tennie Videler

www.cambridgethinkingpress.com

www.cambridgeforestschools.co.uk