Easter Re-Cap

Another Easter all wrapped up. Olivia, Erica and Nico ages, 15, 13 and 12 are getting older now, so to quote Nico, “Easter isn’t what is used to be.”  Sigh. I tried, but I kind of agree with him. Even though my efforts were last minute and I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon running around to Target, ULTA, Old Navy and Rite Aid, buying make-up, iTunes gift cards and candy to stuff in their baskets, the morning’s egg hunt was a bit anti-climatic.  Something about only one kid, six year-old Diego, who is still a believer, hunting for eggs in our front yard in his pajamas…well it is a bit of a let down for me from previous years.

In earlier days,  when my other kids were little, we would get together with all their cousins and tons of family to hunt for eggs in the park, knocking each other down and dragging themselves through the mud in the process.

But the real message of Easter isn’t about the white bunny laying eggs, which by the way generated a very interesting conversation from Diego at the breakfast table. The real message is about re-birth, renewal and hope that comes in the form of an empty tomb on Easter morning.  So we all went to church to hear that message and take part in the Easter celebration. Literally. I assisted with communion and got to wear the really fancy robe, called a dalmatic. Olivia, Eric and Nico all served as acolytes. And because of our participation in the service we all got preferred seating on the chancel. Yeah! Only Juan had to arrive an hour early and stand in line with Diego waiting to get in.  But, as anyone who was there will tell you, it was worth the wait.  Our rector’s sermon was inspiring, the choir and brass ensemble magnificent, and the flowers were beautiful!

Speaking of beautiful, our Easter brunch was a thing of beauty.  The food turned out delicious and plentiful. And our Easter Hollandaise tradition was a success. You can read about that here. The entire family preparing the meal gave new meaning to, “Many hands make light work.” And the group effort led to precision timing.

Thanks to Erica for the hollandaise sauce, Juan for the hash browns, Olivia for the cinnamon rolls, Nico and Diego for the table setting and me for the perfectly (yeah!) poached eggs.

All agreed it was a wonderful meal.

After hunting eggs, brunch and church you’d think we were ready to call it a day.  But, wait, there’s more. We had more Easter ahead of us as we loaded the van with baskets, more plastic eggs and drove to South Orange County for a gathering at Juan’s sister’s house. They had already eaten, but that didn’t stop us from bringing more food and grazing all afternoon. The littlest ones, Diego and his cousin Juliana, hunted for eggs. Of course, Diego got the most eggs, but they were sweet together.

When it was all wrapped up we put all the kids together for a family picture.

Then someone had the great idea that we needed another picture with all the parents and grandparents. The even better idea was to position everyone at the far end of the yard, near the edge of the pool.

You knew it would happen…

And it did….

Sorry, Lolo.

But it makes a fun Easter memory. Happy Easter!


Easter Hollandaise Traditions

Eggs Benedict—a split English muffin, Ca...

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Every family has their holiday traditions and mine is no exception.  At Christmas we have the usual traditions exchanging gifts, decking the halls, and  the not so usual traditions of tamale-making and the falling-of-the-Christmas-tree. It seems that almost every year, after we have finished putting up our tree, stringing it with lights, and decorating it, sometime later, when the whole household is asleep with the satisfaction of our halls decked in Christmas splendor, we are rudely awakened the crashing sound of the tree falling and the tragic sound of treasured ornaments breaking as they hit the hardwood floor. It  happened three years in a row, until we finally bought a super sturdy tree stand. But that was our Christmas tradition.  We have another special custom which we will celebrate today, Easter Sunday.

The time-honored Easter tradition in our family is the annual Hollandaise Sauce Breakdown, followed-by the inevitable Mommy Melt-Down.  At Easter time, I like to prepare brunch. Sometimes we host other families and sometimes it’s just us.  When it’s just us I like to make Eggs Benedict, topped with hollandaise sauce. Anyone who has ever made this sauce knows that the secret to this dish is timing. Poach the eggs a bit too long and they are hard. Poach them not long enough and they are runny and yucky. Since my egg poacher only has enough room for four eggs at a time, I have to cook them quickly and keep them warm while I am simultaneously stirring in the chilled butter one pat at a time,  into the hollandaise sauce.  When it works, it’s wonderful, but when my timing is off, it’s a recipe for disaster.   There has been more than one occasion when I have been able to perfectly poach the eggs and nearly complete the hollandaise sauce, when the sauce suddenly breaks apart and I end up with a saucepan full of greasy,  separated butter flavored with lemon. Last year I managed to successfully poach the eggs and, with precision timing the hollandaise sauce was ready right on cue. I called everyone to the table, “BREAKFAST!” Nothing. Crickets.

The kids were too busy with their Easter baskets. No one came to the table. The eggs got cold and my sauce broke down. I looked at the saucepan full of separated,  slightly curdled  butter, which only moments had been a rich, creamy yellow masterpiece.  I lost it. I had a melt-down. I am ashamed to admit it now, but I threw down the pot holder, and went to my room. I heard Juan frantically trying to bring the sauce together while he barked orders to the kids to get into the kitchen and help. Juan, whose family had owned a restaurant, called his dad and asked for help. He managed to rescue the sauce and found me in our room, brooding about all my unappreciated efforts. The kids apologized and we all sat down for a breakfast of lukewarm poached eggs and put-together-again hollandaise sauce.

I like to think I have learned from that lesson. One thing I have learned is that I cannot make this breakfast alone, the preparation requires precise timing, a task better suited for several hands.  Last summer Erica went to cooking camp and came home with a great recipe and the skills to make a killer hollandaise sauce.   So, Juan has offered to make the hash browns, Erica will make the sauce and I will (try) to poach the eggs. With this combined effort I think we can serve up a wonderful meal and I can avoid a melt-down. Now that’s a holiday tradition I can really enjoy!

What’s So Good About Good Friday?

I  was raised Roman Catholic, and while our family wasn’t devoutly religious, we were pretty observant. I made my First Holy Communion at age 7, my confirmation when I was 14 and we attended church on a semi-regular basis. Growing up, I also dappled in other religions, Quaker, Pentecostal and even the born-again movement. But, for me the other religions always felt like I was wearing someone else’s shoes. I kept missing the peace I felt with liturgical aspects of the Catholic faith. That’s not to say I felt like the Roman Catholic faith for me was a perfect fit either.  I married, then divorced, and as I formed my own opinions about birth control, choice and women as church leaders, I felt less and less like the “Roman Catholic shoes” were a perfect fit. It wasnt’ until I found my current church and the episcopal faith did I feel like I had found the perfect shoes to use walking in my faith.  I love the ritual, tradition and the fact that I don’t have to check my brain at the door of my episcopal church.

I also love this moment in the liturgical calendar. Holy week is meaningful to me because it makes me pause and think about what Jesus and his message was all about.  Even if I didn’t keep my Lenten discipline this year (and almost every year),  I know I am profoundly loved and God accepts my imperfect self, as God loves and accepts us all.  This was Jesus’ message, and one which was not received in his time by those who felt threatened by it, by those who feared his radical message of love and inclusion.  It is still a message which isn’t accepted by those who are fearful of what love and inclusion will do to their power.

I didn’t intend for this to be a preachy post but I have been so moved by what this day, Good Friday, means to me.  I attended my church’s Good Friday service today. I loved it. It was solemn, sad, and beautiful.  Last night, too, I attended the Maundy Thursday service. It is another one of my favorite services of the year.  It is a service which demonstrates the caring and loving example that Jesus showed his disciples. Those of us who wished to,  performed the foot washing ritual on each other.  At the conclusion of the service, the altar was ceremoniously stripped of its adornments, in preparation for the solemness of Good Friday. Today, at the Good Friday service, the altar bare and the chancel empty, the clergy wearing only their black cassocks and no other vestments, provided a powerful backdrop for the meditations on the meaning of this day. At the conclusion of today’s service I wept as the choir sang the spiritual “Were You There When They Crucified my Lord?” I was moved by the humility of my rector as he knelt with reverence at the chancel steps,  I was humbled God’s grace as I realized that Jesus’ life was meant to be the example of perfect love for the human family, and I was filled with joy and anticipation as I realized that this example of love, inclusion and justice is all I need to go out into the world and meet the challenges of life.  For me, that is what is good about Good Friday.