5 Easy Ways To Celebrate Easter

In my Southern family, Easter always comes with a big celebration. Relatives come to town, huge spreads of food are prepared and the Easter baskets are packed full of treats.

Now, living far away and having only a husband and a dog to celebrate with, the epic festivities seem like a lot of work for just a couple people to enjoy. It’s easy to get complacent about carrying on customs, but each year when I make the effort, I’m never disappointed. Although I may be a far-flung Southerner, I can always take traditions with me wherever I live to make it feel like home.

Here’s five easy ways to celebrate Easter that will have you feeling like you’re back home without a lot of fuss.

1. Dye Easter eggs. This easy activity will have you feeling like a kid again as soon as you try the old half-pink, half-blue dunking method. The eggs in this ancient activity are meant to symbolize new life, reminding Christians of Christ’s resurrection. Ukrainian customs hold great significance in each color of Easter eggs:Here’s five easy ways to celebrate Easter that will have you feeling like you’re back home without a lot of fuss.

White: purity and innocence
Yellow: wisdom, recognition, harvest and reward
Orange: strength, endurance and ambition
Red: happiness, hope or passion
Green: sign of spring, hope and innocence
Blue: good health
Purple: royal color, faith and trust
(Ukrainian Easter by Mary Ann Woloch Vaughn)

5 Easy Ways To Celebrate Easter

2. Eat. In my family, Easter Sunday Mass is always followed by a delectable lunch. Ham was on the menu when we were young, but as everyone got older and the family grew in members, fried chicken from the grocery deli took its place. Either entrée is enjoyable with sides of potato salad and ambrosia salad.

3. Stage an Easter egg hunt. Whether you have kids or you’re a kid at heart, hunting Easter eggs is a surefire way to add a little excitement to your Sunday. Fill plastic eggs with traditional candy, love notes, jokes, money or other fun trinkets to suit the hunters’ taste and bring smiles all around.

5 Easy Ways To Celebrate Easter

Photo: Maida Owens louisianafolklife.org

4. Knock Eggs. Whether you call it egg tapping, tucking, pocking or pâquing, this tradition is a competitive sport in Louisiana. My mother taught my brothers and me when we were young and the tournament-style competition has been an Easter ritual ever since. The rules vary by region, but my family’s are simple: knock the pointy ends of two hardboiled Easter eggs until one of them cracks. The unbroken egg goes on until the last intact egg is standing. Don’t be shy about getting into it. Since 1956, people in Marksville, La. gather in the courthouse square after Easter Sunday church services to compete. Some families even make brackets and keep score.

5 Easy Ways To Celebrate Easter5. Go to church. I’ve lived a lot of places, most of them hundreds or thousands of miles away from my tight-knit family. Going to church has always made me feel close to them no matter how far away I may be geographically. Raised Catholic, there is a comfort in knowing my family members are hearing the same scriptures and saying the same prayers as I am at Mass 2,100 miles away.

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Recipe: “Better For You” Chicken Pot Pie

Recipe: This ain't your mama's chicken pot pie | StayingSouthern.net

This ain’t your mama’s chicken pot pie

I miss Southern food more than anything else about the South – besides my family, of course.

It’s probably a blessing that I don’t live in the South because if I did, I would chronically overeat the delicious but not-so-nutritious regional favorites. (Did someone say boudin?)

In my kitchen, I try to balance recipes that meet the “good and good for you” standard.

Chicken pot pie is one of those dishes that I compare to getting a hug. No doubt, it’s the buttery, creamy sauce and pie crust that makes it taste so good. It’s the epitome of comfort food. But, as comforting as it is, I’m not very comfortable when I can’t button my pants. So, I made some adjustments.

PotPie2This pot pie recipe might not be diet food, but it won’t leave me feeling like I just sold the farm either. By ditching the bottom pie crust, substituting half-and-half with low fat Greek yogurt and replacing traditional potatoes with cauliflower, this fiber-packed dish of bubbly goodness leaves me smiling without all the guilt.

Give it a try! I promise, you won’t even know what you’re missing.

Chicken Pot Pie

1 medium onion, diced

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 cup cauliflower, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1 cup carrot, diced

1 cup canned sweet peas, drained

3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp melted margarine

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth

1 cup low fat Green yogurtPotpie3

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1 ½ teaspoon sage

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme

4 cups chicken breast, seasoned with poultry seasoning (sage, rosemary and thyme), cooked and diced

1 pie crust (store bought, or your own recipe)

Directions

–       Preheat oven to 400 degrees

–       In a large sauce pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sauté onion and garlic over medium heat until onion becomes slightly translucent

–       Add celery, carrots and cauliflower, stirring frequently, until vegetables become tender

–       Combine chicken broth and yogurt in separate bowl

–       Thoroughly mix in melted margarine and remaining olive oil

–       Add flour gradually while stirring constantly for one minute

–       Add chicken broth and yogurt mixture gradually while stirring well until it becomes thick and bubbly

–       Stir in peas, salt, pepper, sage, rosemary, thyme and chicken

–       Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish and cover with 1 pie crust

–       Cut slits to allow steam to escape

–       Bake 20-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly

How to Write a Thank You Note (and why you should)

In this era, steeped in technology, it’s hard to sit down and hand-write a thank-you note when sending a text, tweet or email is so much easier.

Those forms of thank-yous might be immediate, but they’re hardly as personal as a penned note in the mail.

My mother and her sister exchange thank-you notes practically every day, even though they live less than a mile away from each other. They write cards to one another for things as simple as a good chat during a power-walk around the neighborhood or bringing a quiche to Sunday brunch.

It’s easy to feel like thank you notes are wasted on those who don’t write them at all. But, it’s been my experience that showing appreciation is never lost on anyone.

A thank-you note is a tangible experience. Think about it: what do you do when you see an envelope that isn’t a bill or a pre-approved credit card? You smile. You enjoy the feel of the unincorporated envelope and the hand-written address. Then, you open it… and smile again.

A quality thank-you note should read like this:

Dear _________ ,

1. An expression of gratitude for the kindness/gift/presence.
2. How thoughtful it was/how much it was appreciated.
3.  A mention of the future: When you will be seeing each other again and how lovely it will be.
4. Another brief expression of appreciation, closing salutations and the author’s signed name.

Send one of these and people will remember you for the lengths you go to express your gratefulness. The thank you note is possibly the easiest way to create a positive, lasting impression on anyone.

Good manners and gratitude know no zip codes. So keep on writing, because nothing makes a person feel appreciated like receiving a hand-written piece of mail, sent just to say “thank you.”