Spring & Easter

bunny_sm.jpg I noticed a pattern developing midway through my wonder years. It was spring, and the world was once again filled with chocolate Easter bunnies. Some were solid chocolate, others were hollow. I always got the hollow bunny. And still do. Not by choice, and not because of bad luck. It goes beyond bad luck – like walking into a great bakery, getting the ticket with the number “1” on it, and finding out there are a hundred people ahead of you.

At six years old, I began to realize that, in some weird way, my life was being defined by the hollow bunny. It was affecting my world view. Not that I had suddenly figured out how to deal with disappointment, I hadn’t. But I did learn to embrace irony.

Simply put, the world is divided into two kinds of people – those who get the hollow bunny and those who get the solid one. It has nothing to do with fame, fortune, looks, brains, talent, or even likeability. It’s just a difference in mindset.

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lilies1Perennial bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and lilies bring about some of springtime’s best qualities - all making for exceptional cut flowers as well. Even wintertime’s brisk and chilly climate can provide glimpses of floral beauty with Hellebores heralding the coming spring and giving the gardener a glimpse of what is to come. When all things become new again, unthawing from winter’s chill, consider lilies for an accent and spark of year to year blooms for the home and garden.

Bulbaceous and herbaceous lilies alike make fantastic additions to the garden. Planting lily bulbs in the spring ensures sprays of flowers to perfume your garden and interiors as well. Asiatic or Oriental lilies found in florists and flower markets can easily be grown in your own garden. Just think how wonderful it can be to cut ‘Casa Blanca’ lilies direct from your own garden! Hundreds of varieties in numerous sizes, colors, bloom times, and aromas can fill the garden and then vases inside.

Start with a collection of a few of your favorite colors and scents or add to a successful assortment already growing in the garden. Lasting for nearly a week as a cut flower and dousing the garden with intoxicating perfumes, lilies spice up the air and atmosphere of the gardening lifestyle.

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eggsaladitalianplateWith Easter just passed, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

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easter-eggs.jpg Despite my aversion to Christmas, I have always loved Easter. My experience of it was never religious, but purely secular. Growing up, Easter meant a celebration of Spring, egg hunts, fluffy bunnies and chicks, dyeing eggs with onion skins and flowers, and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate. For several years I got to work in a gourmet store in the weeks leading up to Easter. The only thing better than taking home broken chocolate Santas had to have been taking home broken chocolate bunnies.

My other favorite memories of Easter include the ones spent in Italy where I saw the spectacular exploding carriage ritual in Florence known as Lo Scoppio del Carro. Of course there was also food, including those lovely hollow Perugina eggs filled with toys and the traditional dove-shaped sweet bread called La Colomba.

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easterlambchopsIt's almost hard to believe that winter is gone and spring is actually here. The weather has been so unpredictable lately that if it wasn't for the blooming flowers and trees, we'd still think it were fall or winter. But it's the time to celebrate renewal and nothing says it more than the Easter holidays, which are just days away.

Easter celebrations vary from culture to culture and religion to religion. And then of course there's Passover. But what ties all these religions together is the presence of food and interestingly it's common to find lamb served at both a Seder and at an Easter dinner. It has symbolic ties to both Judaism and Christianity. So this year I'm making braised lamb shanks for the holiday, which is synonymous with Passover.

My Spanish-style recipe is both suitable for Passover and Easter. The lamb is braised in sherry vinegar and white wine, both of which add an acidic tang to balance the richness of the meat. Also included are garlic and onions and the spices cumin and paprika. The braising liquid is partially puréed to create a creamy gravy without the use of cream. I pair the lamb with creamed white beans and sautéed kale for a hearty holiday meal. Your family will love this meal whether you celebrate Passover or Easter.

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