Spring is a Time for Awakening

Maple ree flowers and leaves 1Though I am fonder of some than of others, for me every season has its unique blessings. Autumn has always been a favorite of mine because I like the crispness of the air and the vivid colors that paint the scenery. However, the cycle of the seasons produces different feelings in everyone and we all have our favorites. It may be that as a poet I am more sensitive to or pay more attention to the change of the seasons because I feel it so keenly. Winter for me is a time for rest and often for extra sleep. The dark hours encourage it. During the winter, like the bare branched trees and the hibernating creatures, I am less active and more inclined to quieter occupations.

It’s easy to sleep late in the winter. The light does not come through the curtains until morning is well advanced. Chilly weather does not encourage leaving warm covers for frigid floors. Yet as the light hours grow longer and the dark ones shorter, the day calls to me sooner and sooner. Reluctant as I may be to get up from my bed, it becomes less alluring to linger than to rise into the day. Even as the trees and the birds greet the brightening weeks, with the spring, something in me begins to wake up.

Winter encourages me to make soups and stews. My pantry and refrigerator are stocked with warming foods. With the advance of spring I think more about salads and lighter meals. I toss the cold weather recipes that I have accumulated yet not found time to make and clip out more recent ones geared to fresher, less sturdy meal components. Now that I can see it, when I look around at the winter dust on shelves and surfaces, I feel more diligent about eliminating it. Somehow when I can’t see it, it is so much easier to ignore. Now it no longer is.

When I was out and about, my eyes had become accustomed to bare trees sleeping in the cold. All winter I admired the still shapes of the bare branches against the sky. Now as the trees blossom and leaf out, they seem to be dancing with joy. The spring breezes flutter the trees’ new emerging clothing as they dress themselves in their fresh spring wardrobes. When I go about my errands, my heart sings along with the turning wheels of my car.

When I used visit my daughter in Italy, she would come into my room of a morning to waken me from my jet-lagged sleep. She would open the curtains and turn to me as I clung to my pillow. “Wakey, wakey,” she’d say with a smile. Finally I’d open my eyes and greet the day, glad to be awake and alive, ready for a new adventure. Spring feels like that. It is time to pursue the new, the untried, the innovative. Time to put away the darker, heavier winter clothes and put on light, bright colors and fabrics, to free the feet of boots and don sandals. Time to awaken to the new season and to rejoice in it.

Celebrating Special Days with Special Treats

Cake imageThe joyful birthday of our country on July fourth happens to be right next to and between my husband Stephen’ birthday on the third and our wedding anniversary on the fifth. Over the many years of our life together what a wonderful time we have had with our celebrations. In the past we would share what we used to call our three days of peace and love with friends. They would come from everywhere and stay for the three days, overflowing our large home and even camping in the back yard. The pool and the hot tub were frequently in use. They were joyous occasions.

Today we live more quietly, yet we still celebrate and have friends in to join us, though not so many or for so long. Special recipes are always fun to share for these occasions. One of Stephen’s favorites is a cake made with Almond paste or Marzipan. The main ingredient can be purchased at almost any market. This cake is not the kind to be frosted however you could also decorate it with fruit. In my case if I decide to make it this year I might spell out Happy Birthday Stephen with pieces of strawberry.

Marzipan Cake for Special Occasions

Preheat oven to 325

Grease and flour, or grease and line with parchment an 8″ round cake pan.

Ingredients:

7 or 8 oz almond paste or marzipan

¾ cups butter

2/3 cups sugar

3 large eggs, beaten

¼ teaspoon almond extract

¼ tsp baking powder

1/3 cup all purpose flour

Method: Crumble almond paste into bowl. Add butter. Beat well until blended. Gradually add sugar and beat well until mixture is light in color and texture. Add beaten eggs, continue beating for 3 minutes. Add flavoring. Sprinkle in baking powder by pinches. Fold in flower. Scrape batter into prepared baking pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until firm and browned on top, and a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes on a rack. Slide a thin knife around and under the cake to detach from pan. Invert on rack then turn right side up and finish cooling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

This cake is a wonderful treat, and can easily be made gluten free by using a flour mix from Bob’s Red Mill or another one you might like. It really helps to have a mixer, as it would be very labor intensive to mix it by hand, though it would also be excellent exercise. Whether I make this recipe or another I am fond of, I know I will enjoy celebrating these special days.

A Very Special Easter Bunny

I have many memories associated with Easter, dating back to my childhood and continuing on through the years between then and now. In the days when ladies wore hats to church, as a child I wore a straw hat with a wide brim and a ribbon tied around it that hung down my back. My father would always buy my mother and me corsages, a gardenia for me and an orchid for her. I loved the scent of the gardenia. However, there was no Easter basket, candy, or hiding of eggs. After church we usually went to my Great Aunt Alice’s for Easter dinner.

When I was married and had two young daughters of my own I used to sew Easter outfits for them–little spring coats and pretty dresses. We always hid candy eggs around the living room. When my daughters were old enough to do some independent purchasing, they planned a special surprise for their parents. They walked to the local candy store and spent their own money on Easter candy, although not for themselves. Then on Easter morning they got up early and created an Easter egg hunt for their parents.

I will always remember coming down into the kitchen and seeing the foil wrapped eggs gleaming from their hiding places. Then two little voices called out “Surprise!” Bright in my memory are the two dear faces wreathed in smiles. “The Parent Easter Bunny came and hid eggs for you to find,” they told their father and me. What fun it was to discover where the eggs were hidden. What a pleasure it was for them as well to create this wonderful experience. It continued for some years, and each Easter their father and I looked forward to it.

Time and tide move us onward. More children came along to hunt for eggs and enjoy the Easter celebrations. The girls went off to college and began their own lives. Later on when they were married and grown, one lived too far away to celebrate at Easter with us. However the other lived close enough to drive over. We would go to a very special candy maker in the vicinity. Together we picked out candy for the grandchildren, and she took it home for the Easter Bunny to give them on Easter morning. Although I didn’t get to see their faces when they discovered their gifts, I had the pleasure of participating in their happiness.

Throughout the Western hemisphere, Easter is in part a religious holiday and in part a celebration of the coming of spring. Since before recorded history human beings have honored this time. Archeologists have found red dyed eggs dedicated to the German goddess of spring in Europe. There are many traditions from every where in Europe that are part of the way we celebrate today. Most spiritual paths and religions have their own spring celebrations. The dear Easter Bunny is a precious reminder to us that the days have grown longer, the trees will be budding, and life emerges joyfully in the new season.

Laura and diana 3The Parent Bunnies are all grown up.