Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Photos 2014

Happy Easter everyone!  Sharing some favorite photos from the Easter weekend...Admittedly, I am THAT crazy, over-zealous Mom when it comes to voluminous holiday photos.  Although trite, it just seems these years with our little ones are going by too quickly, I feel pressure to document everything!  I want to pass along to my children the same gift my parents gave me: fun memories of these special holidays.  

It can be a comedy of errors, to say the least.  In the midst of the crazy amount of planning and preparation, kid-fighting and whining, misplaced 'fancy' attire, unruly behavior at church, we just want to enjoy it!  Accordingly, we try our best to get that one "good" family photo (or at least, kid photo) to represent the fun we are having.  But, the reality is, like the imperfect holiday photo (someone is always blinking, looking away, or hitting their brother), the holidays are going to be imperfect in various ways as well.  You get the kids the wrong gift, you over-cook the dessert, you can't find their 'nice' pair of shoes, your iPhone maxes out on photo storage....The list could go on.  

I always have to remind myself to take it in stride, keep things in perspective, enjoy these moments with family, remember to be thankful (so what if we spill bright green dye ALL over the kitchen, or have to make 2 separate attempts to get a pew in church, or get chocolate all over our fancy Easter dress!?)  What matters during the holidays is NOT to have a 'perfect' holiday; rather, to have a perfectly memorable one, with family and friends.

Due to work schedules, we decided to stay in Cleveland (as opposed to visiting extended family).  We missed celebrating with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but still managed to have a fun time with just us!  Beyond the unprecedented 75 degree sunny day, the icing on the cake was when my 6-yr old, Charlie, declared after dinner, "This was the best Easter EVER!!!"  Seriously, despite any 'imperfections' we certainly experienced, that in itself, made my day.

The Easter holiday brings a renewed appreciation for life, love, peace, family, friends, and all of our blessings.  Regardless of our religious affiliation, spring is also a time for contemplating growth, improvement, and turning-over-a-new-leaf, in various aspects of our lives.  How can we be a better parent, son/daughter, friend, community member, etc.?  What goals do we have for the coming season personally, professionally, spiritually?  I think this is the perfect time to take inventory and make a fresh start.  

OK, OK, I confess....this is coming from someone who is notoriously running late and if today was an attempt to 'improve' in this regard, I clearly failed.  We shamelessly arrived at 8:59 for 9 A.M. Mass only to discover standing-room-only....So, we decided to head home and return for the following Mass.  This is also coming from someone who consumed their fair share (and then some) of the divine monkey bread (see warning in recipe about its highly addictive nature!)  This is also coming from someone who is always striving to be more patient, engaged, and giving (time and attention) with my family.... get more sleep, healthy foods, and exercise (for myself), and continuously battles that inner voice of self-critique, demanding improvement.  Clearly I am far from having it all figured out.  Yet, it is so much easier to say than do.  Nevertheless, spring remains the season for self-reflection, new opportunities, and a celebration of this crazy-yet-beautiful life in which we live.

FINALLY!! After a harsh winter, we were blessed with a beautiful weekend in Cleveland, just in time for Easter!

We brought a little craft for the kids' Easter party at school...

Our fun babysitter, Mollie, actually came up with this one...
originally looked like this

"practicing" our egg-hunt skills for the big day....

Simple Easter menu for breakfast/lunch/dinner includes Easter (hard boiled) eggs, egg, cheese, and sausage casserole, monkey bread (endless thanks to my Katie Schwaneke for this amazingly easy-yet-delicious recipe, see below), fruit salad, lemon, dill, cucumber, olive, and feta orzo pasta (recipe below), steak (ham was my original plan), raviolis, fingerling potatoes, green beans...

One of my favorite holiday traditions, dying Easter eggs!

I LOVE the mix and match color study!

Post-Easter egg dying fun with leftover dye and paper towels...

The Easter bunny left baskets and little gifts on our mantle (so early risers cannot rip into them before we are all up and moving!)

Given their screams, clearly the crowd favorite was the movie, Frozen

Hard to see, but the Easter bunny left eggs all over the yard! A raccoon got into some, but there were still plenty left for us ; )

7:30 a.m. Easter egg hunt can't start fast enough...who needs a hair brush?
Ready, set, GO!

Getting ready for breakfast...ok, so we didn't use the good China, but how about my faux-moss bunnies from Home Goods?

The Easter Bunny left us our favorites: LEGOS!

Surprise visit from our previous beloved neighbor, Anthony!

Off to Church...

After changing out of our Easter garb...time for some action in the back yard!  Caroline has declared this her 'Princess Leia walking-light-saber-stick,' whatever that may be!

Jack climbing to the top of a tall hill...What a beautiful day, 75 and sunny.  So thankful!!!

Cheers to you and your loved ones for a happy and healthy spring season!

Wanted to share recipes below...

Katie Schwaneke Monkey Bread

24 ounces frozen dinner roll DOUGH BALLS (not frozen rolls)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla instant pudding mix
1/4 cup white sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/4 sticks (10 T) melted butter

1) The night before, grease and flour a bundt pan.
2) Mix brown sugar and pudding together.
3) Mix white sugar and cinnamon together.
4) Place 1/2 of the frozen dinner rolls in pan to make 1st layer.
5) Sprinkle 1/2 of the brown sugar/pudding mix over 1st layer of roll dough.
6) Sprinkle 1/2 of the sugar/cinnamon mix over the brown sugar/pudding mixture.
7) Spread 1/2 nuts and melted butter over 1st layer.
8) Repeat with next layer.

9) Place on counter overnight. Do not cover.
10) Next morning bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
11) Let stand for a few minutes, then turn over onto a serving platter.

Proceed with caution: Monkey Bread is highly addictive!!

Lemon, Dill, Cucumber, Olive, Feta Orzo

1 lb. Orzo
Zest of 1 lemon
2 T lemon juice
2 t Dijon mustard
5 T olive oil
4 T fresh dill, chopped
1 med shallot, grated
1 cup chopped black olives
1/2 - 1 large seedless cucumber, chopped
8 oz feta
optional: chopped fresh basil

1) Cook orzo according to directions.

2) Meanwhile make the dressing as follows:
Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard and grated shallot in med bowl.  Whisk together with salt and pepper to taste.  Slowly add olive oil while whisking, then stir in chopped dill.

3) After draining Orzo, pour dressing over STILL WARM drained pasta and toss. Allow to cool to room temp.

4) Once at room temp, toss with cucumbers, olives, feta, and (optional) basil.  

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