Hello spring…

I must have flowers, always and always.

Claude Monet

Like Monet, I am always inspired by fresh flowers in my home, but never more than in spring.  The beautiful blooms signal the coming of welcome warm days ahead, helping to drive the long upstate New York winter out of our house.

While my childhood Easter memories are more closely tied to new church clothes, Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies than flowers, I do remember loving the delicate purple violas popping up in our yard and picking them to put in teacups.  The Easter tradition that my siblings and I most looked forward to was dying the eggs.  Mom would boil dozens of eggs.   We would cover the kitchen table with protective newspapers and proceed to drop Paas color tablets into cups filled with hot water and a teaspoon of vinegar. When the colors were dissolved, we would carefully slide the eggs into the cups of dye, trying hard not to crack them.  Occasionally we tried to demonstrate our creativity by using the wire dipper to attempt to hold an egg half way submerged in one of the colors, repeating with the other side in another color.  We thought we were the first ones to come up with such a brilliant idea.  Though our efforts never won any awards, it was a lot of fun.

We did have a family friend who would blow the eggs hollow and use them to create the most exquisitely decorated eggs I had ever seen.  Her artistry broadened my horizons.  Since childhood, I’ve experimented with dying Easter eggs with natural items like purple cabbage and onion skins, as well as some attempts at wax relief.  If you need inspiration for coloring your eggs, a quick peak at Pinterest will have you busy for hours.

With Easter a week away, I wanted to provide you with a snippet of holiday ideas.  Setting the table has always been my favorite part of entertaining. I’m happy to consult with Mr. Smith on a menu and then let him work his magic in the kitchen while I plan the appropriate table setting.  Since we are planning a move soon and packing and purging, this year I challenged myself to design an Easter table without purchasing anything new other than fresh flowers and consumables.

For this table setting, I used my china with a lovely purple violet design and let that direct my other decorative choices.  I was happy to find elegant purple tulips which I used individually on the napkins and in the arrangement.  I did succumb to the purchase of a spool or ribbon, but at least it’s not a 3-foot tall ceramic bunny that I will need to store the other 51 weeks of the year.

I’ve had these little glass chicks for so long, I don’t even remember where I got them!

I positively love my cloche, a large glass dome I used to house gourds in the fall, an Eiffel Tower and Christmas trees scene in December, and now it’s helping me welcome spring.

I decided to lighten up the fireplace mantle, focusing on spring blooms.

Do you have any special Easter traditions in your family?  Through the years I’ve colored many an egg, made bunny-shaped cookies, and filled countless Easter baskets, but the one tradition I have maintained each and every year is the baking of the Smith Family Cheesecake.  My mother-in-law served it at the first Smith Family Easter celebration I attended.  I’ve been making it ever since, sometimes cutting the recipe in half and creating an adorable little cheesecake when it is just Mr. Smith and me for Easter.  Though I have no idea where this recipe came from, we’ve enjoyed it for over 40 years and hope you do too.

SMITH FAMILY CHEESECAKE

Beat until thick: 2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons evaporated milk.

Mill until smooth 16 oz. cottage cheese.  Add a pinch of salt and ¼ teaspoon vanilla.

Combine all the ingredients and pour into a 9” unbaked pie shell.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees and enjoy!  (Can be made the night before and refrigerated.  Remove from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.)

Whether you are spending Easter with family or friends, or taking some time to yourself, I hope you have some spring like weather, enjoy some spring flowers and perhaps spot your first robin! 

C’est la vie. 

Tiptoe through the tulips…

They say winter always ends, but on this first day of spring in upstate New York, winter lingers. Luckily for me, I can pop into a local florist or the floral department at our favorite grocery store and buy beautiful bunches of spring flowers, tulips and pussy willow being two of my favorite harbingers of spring.

After many years of working in a flower shop, I can assure you that tulips are flowers that don’t particularly want to be “arranged”.  I have no desire to use a wire on their stems in an attempt to make them do something against their nature.  I’d much rather put a large bouquet on a vase or other container and enjoy their natural beauty, floppiness included! After they settle in, I can always add another stem or two if the arrangement doesn’t feel quite right.

After bringing your fresh flowers home from the market, you will want to rinse any dirt from their stems and the trim them about 1” using sharp sheers.  If you can cut them at an angle, that gives the stem more surface area to soak up water.  If you change the water and retrim the stems every other day, you should be able to enjoy your spring blooms for at least a week.

Another joy of spring is “forcing” branches indoors.  I’ve had wonderful results with forsythia and pussy willow, although I’m on the lookout for some dogwood or flowering almond.  You’ll want to choose young healthy branches with plentiful flower buds. With branches as with flowers, you will need to recut the stems, but for branches you should also make a vertical slit in the stem using a sharp knife. Place the cut stems in cold water. Frequently misting the branching and changing the water often will enable you to enjoy your branches for quite some time.  That said, I recently read some online advice to not put pussy willow in water, so I decided to try it and see.  I’ve had this bunch for almost a month in this pitcher with no water and they are doing quite well.

So, if there are no bulbs pushing up in your yard or buds popping on your trees and you need a bit of spring, you can book a flight south, stroll through an arboretum, or buy yourself a bunch of tulips and think spring!

C’est la vie.