family Easter dinner

Five Unchanging Qualities of Family Traditions (Easter Musing)

It’s Easter today and I’ve been thinking.

I’ve been thinking about how some of our Easter traditions are changing.

The interesting thing about traditions ….. is that they cannot all indefinitely stay the same.

According to Wikipedia,

“A tradition is a belief or behavior passed down within a group or society with symbolic meaning or special significance with origins in the past.”

And one of Merriam-Webster dictionary’s definitions is:

” the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction”.

I really like my traditions to stay the same, and I love to share them and pass them on to my children.

But therein lies the rub. My “children” are no longer children. My sons are currently sixteen and eighteen years of age; an older teenager and a young adult.

And so although many things can and will stay the same, other things are changing.

dinner rolls and bag of potatoes

When I was a child, my parents hid candy in the house for us to find on Easter morning before church. I loved that tradition, but always had a “dream” of an outdoor Easter egg hunt.

We also poked tiny pin-holes in eggs, blew out the insides (probably saving them to cook later), and colored the eggshells with food coloring in water.

And we ate store-bought hot cross buns.

bread-maker bread

When my oldest son was about three years old (and the youngest was around one), we were invited to be a part of our very first Easter egg hunt. It was a very special outdoor gathering at a church friend’s farm home. The party consisted of an outdoor picnic and Easter egg hunt in their back yard (my childhood dream!).

searching for eggs at Easter egg hunt

Easter Egg Hunt

So every year on the Saturday before Easter Sunday (except for one during which we were away on vacation), we enjoyed this wonderful time of food, friends, and outdoor egg-hunting fun. Over time, the size of the event grew along with the age of our kids. The egg hunt grew to include the adjacent fields, and eventually, the big kids ended up looking for eggs all the way out in the woods, or decided to help hand out the extra candy and prizes to the little ones.

looking for eggs

finding eggs

Afterwards, we almost always rushed to our Saturday evening Easter service (another tradition of our church; we have an extra, early service on most holidays, in order to free up Sunday for those who have family to visit or entertain). We would change into our good clothes, enjoy a short but meaningful service, then come home to relax while the boys would compare treats.

dress clothes

fun at the egg hunt

Easter Egg Hunt eggs

We have enjoyed this particular tradition until just a couple of years ago.

I don’t think my guys are missing the egg hunt too much at this age, but a part of me still does. I don’t really want to go back to them being younger and relive the past, but it’s another one of those closing chapters in the book of our lives.

So this year, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to let it go.

But with the loss of an enjoyed, familiar tradition, I’m also realizing that I need to create some new traditions. I’ll be thinking about this in the years to come.

This year, I decided to bake a dried cherry almond bread in my bread-maker for an Easter morning treat. I programmed the machine last night before bed, and it was wonderful to awake to the aroma of freshly baking bread this morning. Perhaps homemade cinnamon rolls may make it to the Easter morning menu!

bread from bread-maker

One thing that’s nice is just having a little more breathing space in our Easter weekend. Due to either Easter choir or music ministry, usually my husband or I are involved at all three church services, while the other stays home and cooks the Easter ham dinner with the boys.

Although my sons would claim they are too old and mature for Easter egg hunts, they haven’t complained one bit about the chocolate and candy that I still surprise them with on Easter morning. Even my husband and I get in on the fun (who doesn’t like a little chocolate?), although this year I supplemented our modest amount of treats with a nice, scented candle.

Easter treats

You can see that while some of our family traditions are the same or similar to those of earlier years, others are in the process of changing.

This is a necessary development as people grow, preferences and circumstances change, or perhaps some traditional activities are no longer available.

What is important is the meaning of what we are celebrating, and the fact that we are sharing our old and new traditions with those we love.

family Easter dinner

Now that we’ve concluded that traditions themselves will sometimes change, it’s worth considering what part of our traditions should stay the same.

Five Unchanging Qualities of Family Traditions:

1. The True Meaning of the Holiday is Central –

The real meaning of the holiday is the most important element in the celebration. For those of us who are Christians, holidays like Christmas and Easter will have a central focus on the celebration of what those holidays mean to our faith. We are not simply passing on meaningless traditions to our children, but sharing elements of our values and beliefs.

2. Family and Loved Ones Are Together –

I think most of us would agree that one of the most important factors of holiday traditions is that we are together with family and loved ones. It may not always be possible to be together physically, but a phone call can keep us connected. Or we may chose to bless someone else who needs a family with whom to celebrate. Sharing time with loved ones gives special meaning and enjoyment to our holidays.

3. We Celebrate Our Family History or Culture –

What would certain holidays be like without the rich and varied traditions of our cultures? We can pass on both significant and fun elements of our family’s culture(s) through holiday traditions. It helps us to be proud of who we are, and understand where we came from.

4. Familiarity and Routines Are Healthy –

Most of us realize that while change can be fun, interesting and help us to grow, familiarity and routine are healthy and less stressful. We find a degree of security in doing something familiar and knowing what to expect.

5. It’s Just Plain Fun! –

This may sound shallow, but a big reason we do an awful lot of our traditional activities is just for good, plain fun! Making memories is the stuff of life, especially in our families. These are the times that draw us close and energize us for the more mundane responsibilities of everyday life. Our memories stay with us even as time passes and things change.

It’s interesting to note that I didn’t even make the connection until after I finished writing this post, that my word of the year seems to be “change”…..so thoughts about changing tradtions really shouldn’t have come as such a surprise. 🙂

No matter what changes time and circumstances bring, I plan to continue to celebrate family traditions and enjoy every moment.

*****

What special traditions do you observe at Easter? Do you prefer the familiarity of doing the same thing year after year or enjoy spontaneous changes? What important traditions do you wish to pass on to your children or loved ones?

brownies with green decor

Simple Things I Did To Make Saint Patrick’s Day Special

brownies with green decor

My Saint Patrick’s Day brownies

Did you have a happy Saint Patrick’s Day?

We don’t make a big deal about it, but there are a few traditions for Saint Patrick’s Day that we like to keep around our home.

My husband’s family has always had a boiled corned beef dinner with cabbage, potatoes and carrots for this holiday. We have been creating our own tradition of cooking corned beef on this day, partly to celebrate with most of the rest of New England, and mostly because there are some pretty good prices on corned beef and cabbage in the supermarkets right now.

This year we tried one about a week early and I roasted it in the oven. We really liked it, so that may need to be the new “usual” for Saint Patrick’s Day.

So on the real holiday (which just happens to be in the middle of a couple of busy weeks), I still wanted to make the day a little special.

Remember how I told you on Valentine’s Day to feed your men (or any other hungry family members, even if they happen to be female)? I suggested simple ways to make the holiday festive, without spending tons of time or money. But by all means, I suggest feeding them!

Well, that’s what I set about doing in the midst of my busy day.

First of all, I accidentally made a really green smoothie in the morning. (Well, I actually made it on purpose; I just didn’t realize it was green for Saint Patrick’s Day until it was all but gone and cleaned up).

really green smoothie

St. Pat’s Day smoothie

If you’d like some good green smoothie-making tips, I wrote about that in an earlier post.

After a late morning appointment, I met a couple of friends at the little local city museum for a flower show. Boy, was that just what I needed for an hour or two on this almost-spring day! We enjoyed viewing art from local artists as well as beautiful and lovely-scented floral displays, and soaked in the feeling of spring.

I was able to purchase a few small pots of herbs grown by our city high school horticultural department, including this fresh catnip for our kitties.

fresh catnip

Happy cat mess.

Apparently, they really enjoyed their Saint Patrick’s Day present. (I decided to just let them enjoy it in this little part of my kitchen for a day or two, then I’ll clean it up.)

Next, between loads of laundry and practicing songs for Palm Sunday worship team, I made a nice box of brownies. I try to always keep some on hand for such last-minute occasions, and today I was glad to have them. The truth is, I really didn’t plan this day ahead of time, otherwise I would have purchased some nice minty chocolate candies to decorate my brownies. (Or I would have purchased some really festive green sprinkles like these or even these.)

As it was, I had to improvise and use what I had on hand.

As a side note, I have been known for being able to improvise. While assisting in a preschool class at the school I worked in for many years, one of the teachers would often comment on how good I was at “fudging” a craft or visual aide to be used in class for her (and it was a compliment!). I think my family taught me how to make do with what I have, in order to make something special without spending a lot of time or money.

Anyway, I thought I’d just get out my green sprinkles for this holiday, but much to my dismay, I had all the other colors except for green. I did try some green sugar crystals, but they didn’t show up much. Just as I was about to give up in disappointment, I remembered these little spring flower decorations I just purchased. (I got them in Target’s wonderful one-dollar section.)

So I happily and meticulously hand-picked out enough green flowers to drive me crazy decorate my Saint Patrick’s Day brownies.

decorating brownies

green flowers on brownies

I baked them and we enjoyed them with our busy and crazy supper schedule this evening.

I don’t think I’m winning any brownie-decorating prizes for these, but I think everyone enjoyed their Saint Patrick’s Day treat.

St. Pat's Day brownies

Earlier this week I used the same flower-shaped decorations on the rice krispee treats I made for our church community group meeting.

spring Rice Krispees treats

Feels like spring!

And I almost forgot to show you my cute little Saint Patrick’s Day carnation that I purchased on my way out of the flower show today. I really like carnations, because they are inexpensive, have a nice fragrance, and last for a very long time.

green carnation

*****

So what did you do for Saint Patrick’s Day? Are you good at “fudging” it when it comes to using what you have on hand to decorate baked goods? Do you have any fun traditions you’d like to share with us?

 

 

iced coffee and rose

If You Love Them, Let Them Go…..Eat !!! (Valentine’s Day Edition)

iced coffee and rose

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a wife and mother (especially with three tall men making up my family; my husband, a teenager, and a young adult), it is that one of the best ways to show love is to feed them. You know the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, it’s usually true!

Now, I’m all for healthy living and eating, and there are times when that trumps such luxuries as Valentine’s Day treats. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to make something healthy. But I’m also a firm believer in making life enjoyable for my family, so sometimes “fun” food wins!

Going out to eat is nice, but can be especially busy on holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you are saving money and don’t wish to go out to an expensive restaurant, have young children at home and it’s not always easy to get (or afford) a sitter, or wish to have a special family day together (and save your special “date night” for the evening or another more practical day).

There are creative ways to enjoy eating at home, whether it’s just you and your special someone, or a family holiday together.

Sometimes it’s special to spend hours in the kitchen, crafting an exquisite meal at home complete with fancy side dishes and dessert, but I live in the real world, where most often something simple is desirable…..and did I mention that I’m dealing with men, here? Even my husband admits that men like simple.

 

So here are some simple food ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home with your family without spending your whole day in the kitchen:

1. Order take-out:  It may seem obvious, but ordering take-out food to eat at home is both fun and can be much cheaper than eating in a restaurant.

pizza and wings

2 Pick up a favorite coffee or surprise treat:  Surprise your loved one(s) by stopping at their favorite coffee drive-through or bringing home donuts or ice-cream.

crazy family with Tim Horton's

3. Make-your-own special hot or cold drink:  We love to make cafe-style hot beverages at home using our battery-operated milk frother, and our favorite iced coffee is now homemade, cold-brewed. (More on drink recipes later!)

milk frother

cold-brewed iced coffee

4. Choose foods that are naturally red or pink:  Desserts or salads with strawberries or other red fruits make festive choices. One of my favorite bloggers recently shared a whole list of 29 Fun treat Recipes for Valentine’s Day!

homemade pound cake with strawberries

salad with berries

5. Make something “usual” in an unusual shape:  Kids of all ages love heart-shaped pancakes (using a heart-shaped pancake mold, “winging it” like I have on my own, or even crafting your own tinfoil molds ; there’s even a link with instructions for making heart-shaped bacon!)

2015-09-12 07.19.00

6. Cook or bake one of their favorites (no matter the color or shape):  I even purchased an entire cream cheese cookbook (years ago when they would allow sales people to leave them for us to browse at work), in order to obtain many different cheesecake recipes since it was one of my husband’s favorites.

french bread pizza

7. Decorate desserts or treats with appropriately colored sprinkles or candies:  Appropriately colored sprinkles (red, pink, white) or cinnamon hearts make regular cookies, brownies or whipped-cream look special.

cupcakes with sprinkles

8. Serve food or drinks in appropriately colored or decorated dishes, mugs or paper-ware:  Pull out your red mugs and dishes or pick up some Valentine-themed paper goods.

WOF loved heart mug

As you can see, with a little effort and imagination, you can make the day feel special (and still find time to relax yourself). These ideas can be switched up for other holidays and special occasions as well. One anniversary (long ago, before kids), when funds were extremely tight, I made pizza at home for just the two of us in the shape of a heart. I’ve made heart-shaped pizzas since then for my family on various occasions! Fun!

Did anyone happen to notice that none of these photos were exactly of Valentine’s Day goodies? I guess I need to start taking more photos of my Valentine’s Day treats! Tomorrow I plan to make either strawberry shortcake or homemade pound cake with strawberries, and I’ll be sure to take a photo!

Have fun with those you love this Valentine’s Day!

*****

What kinds of heart-shaped foods have you cooked or baked? Do you have any other practical but fun Valentine’s Day ideas?