Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Spring and Easter Looks a lot Like Christmas

Today is better, but yesterday as the kids were running around the park collecting Easter eggs (our neighbor sweetly hid more than 500 eggs with money in them around the park and asked the boys to join her teen-aged children/guests in finding them) they were getting snowed on. Not anything that stuck to the ground, but snow flurries nonetheless. Karen was outside with the guys so I didn't even realize the hunt was going on until it was almost over. Parker told me he helped hide a few, but it wouldn't be fair if he picked those up so he was leaving those for other people. This is so Parker. He has a strong sense of ethics. He also gave Dema several of the eggs he found. The boys had a marvelous time and I need to organize a block wide egg hunt next year. I wanted to do something this year, but I've been way to busy and barely was able to do easter baskets for the kids (thanks to my sister, Karen, for helping me shop with Josie while she should have been grading papers).

The Easter baskets were hanging baskets for flowers which they can hang up on the porch. They both received seeds and they are sharing the potting soil. They also have pots and paint to decorate the pots. I gave Parker a stepping stone kit and so did Karen so he made one with her yesterday and it is still drying. I gave Dema a kit where he can plant vegetable seeds and see the roots grow. Great fun! They each got a book and a co-operative game as well. Walk in the Woods for Parker and Bambino Dino for Dema. They had a great time playing the games and today we've been reading the books. "Shakespeare's Storybook" for Parker and "Listen, Listen" for Dema.

My friend, Christie's youngest has moved up a size in bikes so I bought the old one for Dema (he has always loved Matthew's "tiger" bike). Dema usually goes around on the Like-a-Bike, but now he can pedal and keep up with the big kids. He kept saying while we were outside riding that now he can meet new friends. I guess he sees his new wheels as a way to see the world and meet new, interesting people. You'd have thought I'd bought him a trip to Europe or something. He's never had a bike with brakes before and kept braking as hard as he could which doesn't do great things if you want to stay upright, but he had fun wearing his new helmet Rob bought the other day and riding the bike.

My mother's cousin Nancy (you might remember her from Parker's birth story) came from the Peoria area, my maternal grandfather (Clifford) came with my uncle (Frank) from Jacksonville, IL. My uncle is actually still from Seattle, but in the process of moving to Illinois. My dad, sister, and Stuart (Karen's boyfriend) were also here. The kids received little gifts from everyone so it was even more like Christmas. Parker was very disappointed my brother, Jim, didn't come. He kept saying maybe Jim would show up at the last minute because "sometimes Uncle Jim does that", but he didn't. Parker also wanted to invite all his friends and I had to convince him that they all had their own families to be with, but I should have let him since we had plenty of food. Parker is all about the big parties and including everyone. His friend Leo came over and I'm guessing he wanted to play, but saw the guests and just asked if he could play in the "stick house". He was gone before I could ask him if he wanted to come in. Nancy had the grandmother touch with Josie and put her right to sleep after lunch. It was so sweet. It was also sweet how Dema just sat right down with Clifford and asked him what his favorite food was and all sorts of other things. The boys get so excited when Clifford comes and he is one of their favorite people. Even Frank, who isn't known for his love of children, spent some time outside chatting with Parker while he decorated his stepping stone.

Now for the food! The menu: Creamy Tomato Soup, Black Bean and Vegetable Soup, Quinoa Mango and Black Bean Salad, Country Fried Tofu, garlicy kale, mashed potatoes, gravy, Rob's Risotto, rosemary olive bread, fruit salad, mixed greens salad with walnuts and raisins, Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake, Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies. All of the capitalized items (except for the Country Fried Tofu and Rob's Risotto) were recipes from Veganomicon. I hadn't made any of them before, that is what having people over is for.

The Quinoa, Mango, and Black Bean Salad was so easy and light. Good tasting and good for you, but the most of all it was beautiful! I loved looking at it. I used thawed frozen mangoes, just one bag, and I should have used two bags, but it was fine the way it was. I adore quinoa. I'm guessing Frank, Clifford, and Nancy haven't had quinoa before, but they didn't say anything. They were all so sweet to try new things. Frank was especially taken with the fried tofu. It is a pretty omnivore pleasing dish. I planned the menu with Frank and Nancy in mind. I knew the rest of the family would be happy with anything. Not that they are hard to please, but I wanted them to be satisfied.

Parker loved the soups and was very upset when Rob took the rest of the Black Bean and Vegeatable Soup to work with him. I promised I'd make more since we soaked some black beans and cooked them over the weekend. I didn't get a picture of the soups since Rob kept telling me to stop taking pictures of the food and keep cooking. He made the kale and was in charge of the tofu. We enjoy cooking together and really love to entertain, but for some reason we also have to get into one argument or it isn't a holiday. My beloved immersion blender died while making the tomato soup (it had been dropped one too many times) so I had to do the traditional blender method. I must buy a new immersion blender soon!

Nancy brought some pretty flowers, potatoes, and some strawberries which in my opinion made the desserts even better...perfect in fact. It was Parker's idea to put the blueberries and strawberries on the brownies and bundt cake and he did a beautiful job of it. Everyone loved the desserts and I have to say they turned out so well, they are worth the price of the book. My oven and I have a love hate relationship (I love to bake, but my oven hates me) so I never know how something is going to turn out once I stick it in our finicky oven. I have never made a bundt cake before, vegan or otherwise, and I felt so 70's baking this one. I even called my dad to borrow my mom's cake pan since I didn't have one. I am telling you right now, if you have not made either of these recipes yet, do it now...I don't care that it is midnight, just do it! You won't regret it. My mother had a lemon poppyseed cake which everyone asked her to bring to events because they loved it. I think this bundt cake from Veganomicon will be my lemon poppyseed cake. We had vanilla soy ice cream for the brownies, but they were so decadent and the strawberries and blueberries were better with them than the ice cram. These are my favorite brownies now.

It was so nice to get together with everyone and Rob and I have a tradition of visiting and leaving all the dishes until after the guest have gone. I still have dishes to do, but it is so worth it. As we are going up to bed last night Parker said, "My tooth came loose on Easter so it was a special day for me, just like it was a special day for Jesus." Loose teeth (not even a first loose tooth), rising from the dead...pretty much in the same league to an eight year old mind.

We have some flowers poking up out of the ground through the leaves we never raked so it must be Spring!


Meat-free Mike said...

What a special time! It's so cool that you can pull the family together and enjoy the company and vegan food and not rely on the "stereotypical" version of Easter/holidays as so many do. Sounds like you have a positive connection with your community/neighbors as well!

Billy said...

That looks like a very good time. I'm jealous.

Thanks for commenting on my blog and the link to the Great Ape Project.

Jennifer said...

Wow - the food looks/sounds amazing! You guys really should open a restaurant! Were you baking for like a week?

And I must say I LOVE the Easter Basket idea - the using hanging pots. I may have to steal that idea for next year! Because everyone needs a hanging basket and no one needs another Easter basket that will sit in the attic until next year! :)

VeganLinda said...


We are very lucky to have the family and community we do. We love it! You will have to come to our next big party.


If you are ever in east central Illinois, you will have to drop by.


It really wasn't much work at all (clean up was more work since that is not the fun part for me). Glad you like the basket idea. The kids really enjoy it. Parker uses our paper shredder to shed used paper and leaves it for the "Easter Bunny" to line whatever we use for a basket that year.