Snow and Spring

We’re feeling a little battered up here by our fourth nor’easter in three weeks.  It adds insult to injury that it’s snowing on the second day of spring.  At least the daffodils and tulips haven’t started to bloom yet, so they aren’t freezing or covered with snow.

This time of year I long for bright colors and warmth.  Too many months of black and white and gray make spring seem even further away.  Maybe it’s time to make an Easter basket and pretend the snow isn’t there.

My mother loved dyeing eggs, in the most vivid shades possible.  She’d dip them until they were deep purple or robin’s egg blue.  No pastels for her!  She also loved to shop for my Easter basket.  She knew I loved stuffed animals, so every year I got one along with the chocolate rabbit and the other candy in my basket.  She still made Easter baskets for me when I was in high school.

Mother was also a fan of the elaborate cakes featured in Good Housekeeping and other “women’s magazines” for holidays.  One year she tried to duplicate one for Easter that used tiered cake pans (like a wedding cake), decorated with coconut nests dyed green and jelly beans for Easter eggs.  I think the cake must have been too “short” (too much butter/shortening) because the layers crumbled as she iced it.  It ended up looking like a mountain with coconut nests clinging to the sides.

My nephew and I told her it was pretty and ate big slices when she cut it.  And it was delicious!  It just didn’t look like the magazine picture.

I wish you and yours the colors of Easter eggs, the sweetness of chocolate, and lots of spring flowers!


In My Easter Basket

Ours were not this pretty!
Ours were not this pretty!

When I was a child, Easter meant dressing up for church on Easter Sunday, maybe even with a hat and gloves in my youngest years.  Daddy gave each of us girls a corsage to pin to our dress.  In good years it was an orchid, and in bad years it was a carnation.  So the celebration involved spring and going to church, as we did every Sunday, but with extra accessories.

For me the best part of Easter was the Easter basket which the Easter Bunny left for me.  Mother and I would color eggs with one of those Paas kits, robin’s egg blue, bright pink, pale yellow.  But these didn’t go in the basket.  The basket was always a surprise, even when I got to be a teenager.

Mother loved any holiday and believed strongly in special food and decorations.  One year she made an Easter cake for my nephew John B. which she had seen in Good Housekeeping or some other magazine.   It was a from-scratch white cake in graduated pans like a traditional wedding cake, with coconut frosting, and little nests of coconut dyed green holding multi-colored jelly beans. It was really cute, except the cake was too “short” (i.e., full of butter or, more likely, Crisco) and the layers crumbled as she tried to frost it.  John B. loved it anyway; I think he said it was an “Easter mountain.”

Mother in her guise as the Easter Bunny got the ingredients for the basket and put them together–colored fake grass, jelly beans, and a chocolate rabbit.  The rabbit was always hollow and not huge, because chocolate rabbits were expensive.  She never had such treats when she was a child, growing up on a farm before the Great Depression.  I never questioned why the Easter Bunny used the same basket every year!

But the best treat to me was the stuffed animal.  I loved stuffed animals and collected them, sleeping with my favorites.   Even as I got older Mother got me one.  One year she let me pick it out from the offerings at this old drug store in town.  It was a rabbit, but a brown one with longer fur that looked like a real rabbit, and was soft and squishy.  I loved that one dearly.

Happy Easter to everyone.  Spring is here at last, after an awfully long winter.

Easter Baskets and Orchids

Ours were not this pretty!
I wonder how many kitchen counters are smudged with Paas Easter egg dye today.  My great-niece and I used to dye them in my sister’s kitchen, covering every surface we could find with newspapers, and we still wound up with dye on our hands, our clothes and most counters.  The kits got fancier as the years went by.  No more cheesy transfers of rabbits and ducks!  The last time Courtney and I dyed them, we had glitter and a sort of tie-dye effect.

When I was small Mother was really into Easter.  I always got an Easter basket with a hollow chocolate rabbit, some jelly beans, and a stuffed animal.  I was a great collector of stuffed animals and was thrilled to get a really lifelike brown rabbit one year.  I petted him as if he were real.

We always went to church.  This involved a new Easter dress, shiny patent leather Mary Janes, and a hat and gloves.  Mother was encased in a dress and hat (and of course her girdle), stockings and heels, and gloves.  Daddy bought us each a corsage to wear.  In good years the corsage was an orchid.  I endured church by concentrating on Easter dinner, which awaited us at home.

Mother usually baked a ham and made candied sweet potatoes and green beans.  These had to be heated when we returned home.  Sometimes we had rolls from the grocery store, which I considered a great treat.

Usually dessert was coconut pie, although one year when we were on the farm Mother made a special, multi-layer coconut cake with little nests of green-dyed coconut holding jelly beans.  The layers were graduated like a traditional wedding cake.  Unfortunately they crumbled at the edges–maybe the recipe was a little too moist?  At any rate, the cake turned into a coconut mountain with nests perilously clinging to its sides.

Maybe it was the return of spring which made Easter so special to her.  Mother tried recipes out of Good Housekeeping which involved cutting cake layers into rabbit body parts.  And we both religiously dyed eggs, even when I came home from college.  We ended up throwing them away because they weren’t safe to eat after sitting out for a couple of days.  But it was worth it to have a bowl full of jewel-toned works of “art” on the table to celebrate resurrection and spring.

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