Friday, April 6, 2012

Holding the Perfect Easter Brunch

After Easter morning church service, invite family and friends over for an Easter brunch. Brunch combines breakfast and lunch in a way that is fun and filling at the same time. Enjoy spring and Easter with this beginning-of-the-season get-together.
Set the time. Immediately after church service would be best time for brunch. On Easter Sunday, most people attend early services. Scheduling the brunch at eleven-thirty would be good. If everyone you are inviting is a member of your church then word of mouth or an informal invite in the church bulletin on the Sunday prior to Easter are okay. Otherwise, send out invitations a week before the brunch. Invitations can be created using a card program or Microsoft® Publisher.
In order to get everything done and make it easier on you, the hostess, delegate duties to your family and friends. These duties should include: decorations, food, entertainment, and paper supplies. The children can help with the decorations. Potted Easter plants can be used to decorate the living room. Kids can also draw and color paper eggs to be used as decorations. Make sure they use thumbtacks and not tape put decorations on the wall.
The entertainment can be as simple as a CD player. The mood on Easter is one of joyful remembrance. Choose CD’s that are upbeat instrumental or some of your favorite hymns. Keep the volume low so that the music provides a pleasant undercurrent to the food and fellowship going on.
Brunch should include a few breakfast items and a light lunch fare. You can handle the food yourself or let the guests each bring a dish. If you choose the latter let them pick what they want to bring from a menu that you make up. Popular items include: a sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast casserole; cinnamon rolls; eggs benedict; and waffles or French toast for breakfast. For lunch, choose one meat and a variety of salads. Sliced breast of turkey or ham would do. I’d go with the sliced turkey if you are planning on eating ham for dinner. Chicken, shrimp, and/or macaroni salad would make great accompaniments.
Whatever you plan for the brunch, make it inviting and relaxed. You certainly don’t have to impress with an elaborate setup. Let your friends and family mingle and share memories of Easter holidays past.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Family Easter Meal Classics for a Busy Mom

After the Easter egg hunt, you may be too pooped to prepare a gourmet meal. Are you a mom who is long on things to do, but short on time to get it all done? Make dinner a breeze this year.
Let someone else cook the main dish. Who says that the honey glazed spiral ham has to be cooked in your oven? The Honeybaked® Ham Store is the busiest place on earth during the holidays and Easter is no exception. Let them offer you a good deal on a tender ham or turkey breast sized to fit your family. I would caution you to order early. Last minute orders could be met with disappointment or at least a very long line to wait in. Pick it up the day before or early Easter morning to avoid the crowds. Check the store hours in your area.
Pre - planning is a lifesaver. If you are making whipped potatoes or sweet potato casserole, why not prepare the potatoes ahead of time? White potatoes can be boiled and mashed a day early. Sweet potatoes can be baked a day early also and the ingredients put together and baked the next afternoon. Preparing as much of the meal the day before will put less pressure on you. If good old-fashioned yeast rolls are on your list, try using Parkerhouse rolls. Take them out the night before to let the dough rise.
So, what is on the menu this year? Here are a few classic choices. In the vegetable department, try collard greens or fresh green beans seasoned with garlic. If you choose turkey over ham, then stuffing is a must. To save time it can come from Stove Top® or ask your mother for her time honored recipe for sausage stuffing. Whenever I have ham for dinner, I have to have macaroni and cheese. And, the more cheese it has, the better. 
Dessert anyone? Making that chocolate cake or that pecan pie just right takes time that you don’t have. Know a good bakery in town? Pre-order your desserts. To make sure that you had some part to play in the dessert process, buy a gallon of ice cream to accompany the cake and pie.
Take a load off this year. You should be able to enjoy your Easter Sunday, too. Let others do the bulk of the cooking for you this year.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Easter Flowers: What To Do After Easter

I love to receive flowers at Easter. Freshly cut arrangements look so pretty in crystal vases. If you want to preserve Easter memories, there are a few things you can do with the flowers that you receive so that you can enjoy them for years to come.
Air drying. The flowers should not be fully opened when you start. Discovering which flowers dry the best will take trial and error. Out of the arrangements I’ve had, baby’s breath, daisies, roses, and carnations look well as dried flowers. Secure them at the end of the stems with a rubber band. Create a hook out of a paper clip and poke it through the rubber band. Hang the flower bunches on a piece of lattice work or the rungs of a plant stand wherever the sun hits your home. It will take several weeks for the flowers to completely dry. When the flowers feel crisp to the touch, they are ready.
Pressed flowers. Pressed flowers can be used as bookmarks or greeting card decorations. Flowers used for pressing should be healthy and not fully opened where it has begun to lose its petals. You want the flowers to hold together. You can press flowers in books. Make sure to arrange the flower the way that you want it to look after pressing. If this will be a regular hobby for you, dedicate a few books that you won’t need. Place the flower between two sheets of paper such as onion skin and then in the book. Once the flower has been pressed, put other books on top to weigh it down. Pressing takes about as long as air drying. 
Replanting flowers. Read the label information that comes with your plant. Indoor plants should be repotted in a bigger pot before they become root-bound. For outdoor plants, spring is a good time for planting. Use topsoil that is rich in nutrients. Be careful not to upset the root ball when you remove the plant from its original container. Keep the plant watered constantly as it incorporated itself into the soil. Perennial plants are the only ones that should be replanted. They will return every year and add color to your garden.
Make the most of your flower arrangements. There are many ways to preserve your flowers to be used over and over again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easter Pet Gift Ideas: Bunnies

Every Easter, a child wants a rabbit. But, before you hop down that trail to rabbit ownership, check out a few facts first. Make sure that a rabbit is the best pet for you and your child.
What is it? If you are buying just one, then the sex can be either male or female. If you are buying several, consider purchasing rabbits of all one sex. If you want to mix them up, keep the males and females in separate pens to avoid breeding. Two rabbits are cute, but ten rabbits could be a nightmare.
Where will they live? Decide if your rabbit will live inside or outside of the home. Outdoor rabbits need a warm hutch to live in. Place the hutch in a part of the yard where it will be braced against the wind. Indoor rabbits will need a home as well which can be placed in a laundry room.
Doctor visits. Consider a rabbit like a kitten or a puppy—constant supervision is necessary especially if they are an indoor pet that can roam free about the house. Rabbits can acquire hairballs and fleas. They also get bacterial infections common to them that, left untreated, could cause their death. Regular checkups will be necessary.
Rabbits are just as delicate as baby chicks when it comes to their bone structure. Picking them up and walking around with them could be hazardous to the rabbit if they are dropped or jump down from the child’s arms. The shock of the landing could break their backs. If you must pick them up, use the scruff of the neck and avoid contact with their spines if at all possible.
Tender loving care. Rabbits need to be groomed weekly and their food and water changed daily. Creating an enclosed area around the hutch will allow the rabbits to be let out for exercise. Keep them near enough to the house that you can get to them quickly in an emergency. For indoor rabbits, let them roam while you refill their water and food. Keep an eye on them, though. Make sure you know where your rabbit is at all times to avoid any incidents.
Rabbits make good pets if you are willing to commit the time needed to care for them. Make sure that your children know that. If they do, then pet ownership will teach them responsibility, compassion, and dedication.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Three Fun Easter Crafts you can do with your Kids

Easter was a fun time at school. We made crafts to take home and display for the holiday season. Here are three ideas to enhance the festivities observed during Easter.

Egg maracas
You will need:
Plastic eggs
Rice, BB pellets, or marbles
Enamel craft paint
Paint brushes
Bowls of water

Clear a space on the table and cover with newspaper. Each person should have their own bowl of water, a paint brush, and plastic eggs.
1. Choose a filling for the egg.
2. Once the filler has been added, dribble a thin line of glue around the egg opening. Snap the egg shut. Wipe off any excess glue.
3. After the glue dries, let the children choose a paint color to decorate their eggs.
4. Let the eggs dry on the newspaper.

Tissue paper Easter bouquets
You will need:
Tissue paper in assorted colors
Green pipe cleaners (eight per child)
Styrofoam blocks (optional)
Plastic or glass vases
Ribbon in assorted colors

Clear a space on the kitchen table and give each child a vase, pipe cleaners, and a pair of scissors.
1. Pick the colors for the flowers from the tissue paper pile.
2. Have the children take several sheets of paper. Roll them up together. Wrap one end of a pipe cleaner around the center of the tissue paper and twist to secure it.
3. Separate each sheet of paper, creating folds. Pull the edges up so that they surround the end of the pipe cleaner. If the paper is too long, cut it down.
4. Continue making flowers until the bouquet is finished. Wrap a piece of ribbon around the flowers.
5. The flowers can now be placed in the vase. If you want to keep them from falling out of the vase, stick the free end of the pipe cleaner into a piece of Styrofoam. Cut the Styrofoam to fit the bottom of the vase.

Easter cards
You will need:
Card stock paper
Stickers (Easter themes)
Construction paper

1. Cut the paper to the size wanted for the Easter cards. Fold the paper in half. The children can also cut the paper into shapes like eggs or bunny rabbits.
2. Decorate the outside of the card with pictures and/or stickers.
3. Using a marker, have the children write their own special greeting on the inside of the cards.
4. The children can hand deliver the Easter cards to their favorite people in the whole world.
Craft making is doubly fun when shared with family. Make this a regular part of “together” time instead of keeping it just for special occasions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Creating a Healthy Easter Basket

With the rate of childhood obesity on the rise, try something new. This year, buy healthy snacks instead of candy. You don’t have to sacrifice flavor, either. Low-calorie or low-fat doesn’t mean it has to taste bad.
This is one time that toys are okay. According to my kids, you can never have too many toys. An Easter basket is about getting a special treat. No one said those treats had to be edible. Small hand-held electronic games are available at stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Toys ‘R Us for less than ten dollars. Card games like Yugioh and Dungeon Dice Monsters are winners with kids these days. For the younger set, try dolls or action figures.
Jelly beans versus dried fruit. Jelly beans would be great if it wasn’t for all of the sugar. You can never eat just one or five for that matter. Dried fruit offers nutrition and taste in the same bite-sized portion as jelly beans. Ocean Spray® makes a snack called Craisins®. They are dried sweet cranberry snacks in different flavors. Also, Sun-Maid®, best known for their raisins, makes dried fruit treats including yogurt- and chocolate-covered raisins. My favorite is chopped dates. Kids won’t believe they’re eating something that’s good for them.
Snack size versus regular size. If you add candy to your basket, smaller is better. Choose snack-sized morsels like Three Musketeers® or Peppermint Patties®. These candy treats are lower in calories than other choices. Just add three or four for a sweet treat instead of chocolate bunnies or cream eggs.
Store bought versus homemade treats. We all enjoy going to the store and getting bubble gum and cupcakes, but do you really know what’s in what you are eating? Most if not all marketable treats started in someone’s kitchen. That means they were homemade at one time. Let’s take Rice Krispy treats® for example. The recipe was on the cereal box before they became a pre-packaged item in the store. At home, low-fat ingredients can be substituted to create delicious treats for the Easter basket. When you know what’s inside your food, you feel better about serving it to your kids.
Easter baskets don’t have to be chock full of junk to be fun. Healthy additions make you a better parent without sacrificing taste. Teach children to eat right while they are young so that they develop a lifetime of good habits.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Accident Proof Your Egg Decorating

For kids, dunking plain white eggs into a bowl and watching them turn a different color is almost magical. Here are a few ideas to help minimize the mess this year.
1. Try stickers. If you are not attached to the traditional method of egg decorating, this is a way to minimize the muss and fuss during Easter. Stickers make easy decorations. They leave nothing to clean up afterwards. And, there’s nothing tricky about it. Just purchase ordinary Easter stickers and stick them onto the eggs. Presto!
2. Dye eggs at the stove. Avoid the mess that comes with sitting your children at the table with their own dipping cups. Mix the dye ingredients in a five quart Dutch oven. Wrap an apron around the child. Let the child take the dried boiled eggs and place them in the dye solution. When the eggs are ready, use a slotted spoon to lift the dyed eggs out of the pan. The slots leave less liquid on the spoon which means less liquid on the stove, the floor, you, and the kids. Spoon the eggs back into the carton. Place the cartons in the refrigerator until time to use them.
3. Work on the kitchen floor. The lower you are to the ground, the shorter the distance a boiled egg has to fall. Spread an old vinyl tablecloth on the floor. Give each child an apron and a pair of exam gloves. The gloves can be purchased from any medical supply store. Gloves allow the children to dip the eggs with their hands instead of a spoon. When they have finished, have them take their gloves off and throw them away.
4. Purchase a ready to use Easter egg kit. PAAS® has been making egg decorating materials for years. Each year they seem to come up with something that will make the egg decorating process easier and faster. They feature egg wrapping kits which create virtually no mess at all. The pre-formed pattern is ready for the decorator to transfer to the dried eggs. They also offer egg cups with their own dipper so you don’t need spoons at all. You can purchase PAAS® products wherever decorating items are sold, including most grocery stores and craft stores.
Egg decorating is great for everyone, but no one likes to clean up at the end. Make it easier on yourself this year, Mom and Dad. 
Try these tips for some good clean fun.