How to use Holiday decorations to teach religious traditions that matter

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Easter Edition

Like Christmas, Easter has its octave because a big celebration requires more than just one day of celebrating. After the octave, the Easter season lasts until Pentecost.


Last year, I planned my Easter decorations while I sat beside Peter’s hospital crib. The fulfillment was more than just some decor decisions. It was the sign of the promise that “a time would come when God would fill what he had emptied.”


Easter felt quieter this year. The emptiness of a child gone held its own against the joys of togetherness and our salvation. I felt at home in the cross. Still, I decorated. Regardless of how I feel in grief, the importance of the day remains and it is my duty to show it to my children.

I show it through bunting.


Our traditions emerge. With Dollar Tree flowers, ribbon and colored elastic from Rainbow Fabrics the children decorate their own baskets. We’ve learned tricks here and there to not destroy the baskets in the process.


Last year, the idea came to me to give them each a color to search for. The miraculous thing is these greedy little imps help each other. The fun is in finding.


Peter in his two-year-old glory is a hospital baby no more. He is part of a tribe, hunting for eggs, even if he will not eat their contents.


His two-year-old willfulness shows the strength of his health…and my patience.

God, it’s good.


Those who grieve know the grief grows quieter but does not disappear. I thought I would feel a rousing joy at Easter like I once did, but the season of life has changed. And that’s okay.

Good things run deeper than emotion. God’s grace, his faithfulness, the gift of his Son, Christ’s self-emptying for our sake to show us the way…even at the Resurrection, the scars remained.

Christ showed us the way, perfectly.

For that, I am grateful.


Waiting for Easter

The clouds rolled in on that Friday called good. What was I doing? My Lent was a mess. After two years of living Lent, I wanted to go back in time, to simply fast and pray. It happened, but halfway through I dropped the prayer and the fasting cost me my peace.

On Holy Thursday I read about a 3-D image researchers created from the Shroud of Turin, the greatest understanding we now have of how Christ might have looked. I felt propelled into the Triduum, into thoughts of him.

And Good Friday came.


In the depths of my youthful, adolescent, spiritual zeal, Good Friday was unspeakably painful. I was lost without my Lord in the Tabernacle.


When we began to live our Lent, first at Benioff Children’s Hospital, then, last year, with visits to the cemetery, I no longer looked for suffering. I looked for hope.


I lived in Lent. More than any other season since my Celeste died, this season made sense. But how could Easter? I looked past the cross and saw nothing. I no longer knew what life meant beyond the cross.


And as the dawn of Good Friday rose, and I with it, I felt a radical peace. Christ was with us at each step, intimately. He bore all suffering in his life, and he bore it perfectly. He walked with us, and he will show me the way as I try to live in hope and peace.


Then maybe, just maybe, as I keep my heart open from this place of being totally understood, he will teach me what it means to hope in the Resurrection.


“There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied,”

Br. Benito, S.J., quoted by Mother Teresa in Come by my Light.



Easter Plans

We have such a day planned! I spent Holy Saturday in a delicious frenzy putting into motion plans that had been swimming in my mind for months. Early this year I made bunting using a stained thrift-store crocheted table cloth, cut into triangles and sewn by machine to two-inch baby pink grosgrain ribbon. I made two, one for the fireplace mantle and one for the bay window behind our dining table.


I went to the garage and carried in the dusty box of Easter decorations. Inside I found a mess or artificial flowers, some ceramic Pottery Barn rabbits and bird’s nests, lots of bird’s nests!

Inspired by Pinterest and Pottery Barn I used the longer flowers to create a wreath around the dining table chandelier.


I placed our newly-made table cloth (courtesy of my mother’s surging machine and dedication to making endless supplies of table clothes and napkins for everyone she knows), and covered the seam with a table runner bought on a whim in my first year of marriage. My father supplied disks of almond wood from his orchard and the flowers came from Kelley Flower Farm in Modesto. With this plan it came together quickly and beautifully.




After decorating the house, we decorated Easter baskets using ribbon, hot glue and artificial flowers from the dollar store. They call the shots, I stick and glue. The children set them out at night and find them filled in the morning.


I anticipate the kids will wake, discover the Easter Baskets and ravage the poor things. Bowls of cereal will await the hunter-gatherers. Then we’ll head to mass and return for egg hunting. To eat, we’ll start with Easter Brunch at our house.

Brunch Menu

Cucumber and tomato salad

Berry citrus Fruit Salad

Breakfast strata

Italian Easter bread

Raspberry Sorbet

After naps we’ll move to my parents house, where my introverted husband will prepare dinner.

Dinner Menu

Deviled eggs

Carrot Ginger soup

Roasted Green beans with caramelized pecans

Rack of Lamb with pomogranete and fennel glaze served with St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon

Farmer’s Market Strawberries and three-year aged cheese

Crème Brulee


Easter Joy

I took care of myself yesterday. I exercised in the afternoon, walked in the evening and read at night. I walked three laps around the park in order to clear my head from the afternoon onslaught of crying and screams from hell-bound ruffians, I mean, my blessed little children. Emotional survival is such a process until the very exciting comes along. And the exciting has come along.

One year ago ’twas Easter. We abandoned our plans and our menu to try to make it work in San Francisco. Peter had been there so long already. By the generosity of the Mark Hopkins hotel company (Intercontinental, I think), we were going to stay for free in a fancy hotel for Easter.


Kyle and the kids came. That week the kids decorated baskets with Grandma and everything came together.

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I bought delightful little goodies at Williams-Sonoma combining retail therapy with indulgent motherhood. It all felt good.

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It is difficult to stay in one room with a bathroom from the 30’s with five bodies, three of which move a lot. It was cramped, but we would be positive! This was such a gift after all. The kids went to bed. Kyle and I stayed in hallway waiting for them to fall asleep. We filled the baskets and went to bed. We thought, surely in a place like this, nothing will happen to those baskets.

Naive little out-of-town small town country folk. The kids woke and the baskets were gone. I went crying to the hotel management and she apologized, sent security to search the halls and came to our room with a basket filled with cookies, candy and teddy bears. They found the kids’ baskets and we made quick work to tell them the Easter bunny had gotten confused because we were in a hotel. Their ages made this possible.

Easter mass at St. Dominic’s was beautiful. We sat in the choir loft and saw such a view of that grand Church. As positive as I tried to be, I felt heart-broken. For whatever we did with the kids to make the day feel special and like Easter, it was incomplete. Peter was not with us. I cannot remember the rest of the day. I felt tired of trying, tired of pretending we could make this day anything other than a spiritual reference in our heart to the meaning of it all.

I would not be caught off guard again. I made plans for every holiday and every birthday should any of the rest of them take place when we were in the hospital. When did we return? Lots of times. But around the holidays?

Shortly before Miriam’s birthday party (I missed the party but we were together on her birthday). All Souls’ Day (November 2 = home for Halloween). The day after Thanksgiving. The week before Christmas (returned home on the 23rd). The first half of Holy Week.

We went Regina’s birthday in San Francisco. The lesson came home to me that day. The imperfect moments become perfectly imperfect, when we are all together. It does not matter that it is cramped, or undecorated, or improvised, so long as we are together. We are connected to Celeste by the invisible string. Tomorrow is Easter…and we are all together!

An Easter recap

We’re meeting milestones here. For the first time since our eldest was born, I made it to Good Friday celebrations. Grace abounded with the relaxed attitude I brought with me (unusual, I can assure you). It was beautiful to see my son venerate the cross.

On Holy Saturday I struggled with my husband’s absence while he earned our daily bread. I did a few things around the house but mostly attempted to let go of whatever I had planned to do and spend time from my kids, to keep them from crying.

We began two new traditions for Holy Saturday. During the day we decorated plain thrift store Easter baskets.

IMG_6732And we had a bonfire. A Catholic tradition which dates back centuries, still lived through the Easter fire at the commencement of the Easter vigil mass, we decided to bring some liturgical elements to the celebrations within our domestic church. My husband chanted the opening to the exultant and I read the epistle and gospel while the kids hid behind me from the fire. That night my son coughed badly, I think from the smoke. We’ll work on that next year.

Easter morning my children woke and began eating breakfast. The door bell rang. “Who could that be?” Halfway to the door my four-year exclaims, “maybe it’s the Easter bunny!” Gifts abounded. Earlier this week I said to my husband, “I think one of my love languages is gifts.” He responded definitively, “No, I think your love language is gifts.”

IMG_6746We got ready for mass. First things first, if you know what I mean.IMG_6754

IMG_6758After an exhausting mass, everyone went out for an egg hunt.




They found.


They collected.


They delighted.


They ate.


We used natural food dyes for the eggs so they were safe for consumption. The baby’s egg above features a bright yellow hue made possible by the generous contribution of tumeric. Below you see an egg dyed with chopped beets. Red eggs were traditionally used to symbolize the blood of Christ. With the bounty I made egg salad sandwiches for lunch.


For our table, I used a traditional white tablecloth with a casual indigo runner. I added porcelain bunny and egg figurines,


flowers from our garden in thrift store bud vases,


and Pottery Barn bunny cupcakes holders


(which never hold cupcakes in my home).


I chose to keep the table simple, with pieces spread out in order to easily accommodate a family style meal.

IMG_6805While my parents enjoyed Easter dinner with my sister outside Kansas City, we entertained my grandmother and parish priest. Two or three days prior to Easter we radically changed the Easter menu from this to a traditional lamb fare. I suppose the lobster tails will just have to wait for Mother’s Day or our anniversary.

For our Easter feast we served:

Lamb with Aromatic Greens

Review: would absolutely make this dish again. It was amazing.

Greek-style braised beans

Review: I really hated this and would never make it again.

Homemade Challah

From The Breadbaker’s Apprentice

Review: It was amazing, but my husband’s homemade breads always are.

Served with Clos du Bios, Cabernet Sauvignon

Frozen Lemon Mousse

Review: Delicious! We substitute grapefruit juice because we have an abundance. It was heavier than I imagined but still tasty and light compared to many other dessert.

I hope you all had an amazing and blessed Easter!

Easter Preparations for the eye and mouth

Spring Decor

Now is the time for Lent. It is a time when we prepare for Easter. It is not a time to yet celebrate Easter. But still, with preparation, some exciting things must take place, such as planning the Easter menu. And as we live in California, spring comes early, and so do my spring decorations.

IMG_6601Faux ranunculus looking sweet on a decorative plate my mother bought me with an Art Nouveau floral scroll, my favorite motif.

IMG_6600As my first venture into neutral decorating, I’ve selected accept colors for each season. In fall, it was orange. In Winter, it was blue or indigo. For spring, think pink!

IMG_6606A coral throw below a floral print trio encased in a cream frame.

IMG_6598Depression-era glass with found bird’s nest complete with foam eggs (spring is too long in California to decorate with real eggs, Minnesotans could probably pull that off).

IMG_6592I’ve laid a floral table runner with beautiful pinks and greens across the mantel and added some more spring touches. A vintage wood stool, a touch of silver, wood pieces from my father’s orchard, a tray from an estate sale, an egg basket I bought when we had chickens.

IMG_6590Incidentally, the nests are all from the home we had in the country, where we also had chickens.

IMG_6591I’ve added a moving pink accent in the living room. I’s important to find things the carry the eye around the room. Please see below.


If there is any day to celebrate it is Easter. Easter is the greatest feast we have in the Catholic Church. So the meal requires due focus. This year my parents are out-of-town. Our company may be smaller but I am delighted to say our parish priest is planning on joining us.

Without further ado…

The Menu

Grilled zucchini rolls with herbs and cheese

Broiled Lobster Tails

Amazing ingredients demand simple preparation.

Spring green risotto

Herb Biscuits

Lemon Buttermilk Cake With Pistachio Ice Cream

 Menu from Easter Past

This is quite the departure from previous Easters. We prepared one my my favorite menus on our first Easter as a married couple. If we acquire more guests, we may borrow from the old.

Sardinian Lamb Kabobs over couscous

Deviled Eggs

Spring Salad

Italian Easter Bread

Angel Food Cake

IMG_1842Bon Appetit!