Each Easter Sunday, three generations of my family gather to compete in a fiercely fought battle of precision, courage and skill. Close bonds are set aside and it’s every man, woman and grandchild for themselves as we battle it out in our annual James family egg bowling contest.
(Very) loosely based on a hard-boiled version of crown green bowling, it’s a fun family game for after Sunday lunch. Even if you’re not a bowling sort of family there’s much enjoyment to be had decorating eggs for Easter – it’s a nice bit of messy fun and you can produce some beautiful effects.
How to dye Easter eggs
You can make your eggs in two ways. The first option is to hard boil your eggs, which you will certainly need to do to play egg bowling otherwise you’re going to have a very messy game. Hard boiling the eggs makes them sturdier for children to handle and decorate but obviously gives them a much shorter shelf-life as decorations.
The second way is to blow out the insides of the eggs and just use the hollow shell for decorating. Use a dressmaking pin to pierce a hole in either end of the egg and then blow through one hole to push all the insides out of the other end. We had great fun doing this and the shells, while needing a little careful handling, are still quite robust and my four and eight-year-olds managed to handle them with no cracks.
To colour the eggs you need to make your dye with a basic recipe of 1.5 pints of water, one tablespoon of vinegar and one tablespoon of salt. This will dye two or three eggs, so adjust your quantities accordingly. To this add your colouring agent: a chopped red cabbage for blue eggs, four tablespoons of turmeric for yellow eggs or two large chopped raw beetroots for pink eggs. To make brown eggs use 1.5 pints of strong (real) coffee instead of the water. Put your ingredients into saucepans and simmer each colour for 30 minutes.
If you’re hard boiling your eggs you can put them in at this stage so they cook as you create your dye. For both methods, once you’ve boiled your dye for half an hour, carefully strain off the coloured juice into a jug and then put your eggs in this dye overnight so they can absorb the colour. If you’re using blown eggs you will need to use a saucer or bowl to keep the shells in the water as they will float.
Once they’re coloured, sit them in eggcups to dry and then decorate them or use them for bowling. Twig and Toadstool
have some wonderful ideas for beautiful designs and you could even add a secret message
How to play egg bowling
Each player has two hard-boiled eggs. Contestants play in pairs, trying to roll their eggs closest to a target – which in our case is a cuddly Easter bunny but any target will do
You may roll, throw or otherwise hurl your eggs towards the target. Smashing or knocking your opponent’s egg out of the way is encouraged
Once both competitors have played their two eggs, the one which remains closest to the target is the winner. Tape measures may be needed to adjudicate
The winner goes on to compete in the next heat and loser is consoled with chocolate mini-eggs
Photo: Cathy James