April 15, 2017

The Perfectly Packed Easter Saturday

I’m in between projects right now at work, which is always tough for me as it takes away my ability to plan. On a day or two’s notice, I could be asked to fly to the other side of the world for three weeks (as happened to me last month!). As a result, even my weekends are tough to really plan out more than a few days in advance.

My family is gathering in South Carolina for Easter and a beach vacation, but I didn’t know for a long time whether I’d be able to take off work to go. Finally, last weekend, I was able to commit – but flight prices were sky high by then. It took a while, but I eventually managed to snag a somewhat-reasonable fare, at least in comparison to the others. The only catch? I’d be departing on Easter Sunday (hence why it was a cheaper flight). But I decided that would actually work out well: I’d be able to go to my own church on Saturday for Easter service, as well as host my traditional Easter brunch that day, before flying out 6am Sunday morning. It seemed like a great plan – and by the end of the day today, I’m marveling at just how perfect it was!

I had a lot planned for a short time, and as I thought ahead to party time, I realized that I’d only have an hour between church and when people would be arriving. Thinking back to how easy my Thanksgiving is, thanks to my Thanksgiving Excel, I decided to take a similar approach to Easter by making a prep timeline. I didn’t need the Excel this time, since Easter didn’t involve nearly as many dishes as Thanksgiving, but I found it really helpful to map out exactly when I was going to prep / cook each dish. And in some cases, the prep was completely separate from the cooking!

Last year for Easter, I made this healthy baked banana bread French toast – which not only came out delicious, but also was really easy to prep ahead of time and just slide into the oven to cook. As a savory main dish, I decided to stick with the casserole theme and try this new-to-me recipe for a potato egg bake. And for some special desserts, I tried out Kelly’s adorable coconut macaroon bird’s nests along with my favorite healthy carrot cake, baked in a loaf. To add to the fun, I planned a make your own mimosa bar, which when stocked with both prosecco and seltzer would satisfy both drinkers and non-drinkers alike. A pretty simple menu, but what made it really easy was my approach to making everything piecemeal.

First, I tried to identify dishes where the prep / cooking could be divided, so I could prep in small chunks of time. For example, with the egg bake, I chopped the peppers and potatoes on Thursday night and pre-cooked them on the stove Friday, so that all I had to do today was grease the pan and mix up the eggs to pour on top – then slide those casserole dishes into the oven when I got home after church. Since the French toast is actually best made by allowing the egg to soak in, I prepped that on Friday night: layer slices of bread into a baking dish, toss sliced bananas all over the top, and then pour the egg mixture over the top and put into the fridge to soak until baking time. I made the coconut macaroon bird’s nests on Thursday night and stored them in sealed tupperware, and baked the carrot cake on Friday night. So the only thing I needed to do the day of the party was bake a second carrot cake (as I suspected, we went through two at the party – the recipe is that good), put the egg bake / French toast casseroles into the oven, and then set all the dishes and candy and drinks out. Really easy!

And, happily, today ended up going off without a hitch! I got up at 6am to head to Orangetheory, which I knew would get my day started on the right note.

The workout was “endurance” style, and it was super fun – here’s the description if you’d like to try it yourself. While my legs were pretty tight from a good Fitwall workout yesterday, I was proud that I was able to run the entire treadmill portion without a walk break.

After the gym, I stopped home just long enough to vacuum / clean the kitchen, throw in a load of a laundry, and shower / clean myself up for church. I left really early for church, because my church has been talking for weeks about how packed it was going to be. I ended up having no trouble parking and was in the lobby twenty minutes early – which meant that I was able to get a front row seat! The service was outstanding – I’m still so glad I church shopped and found Flatirons last year during Lent.

The new series we are starting is called “BYOJ” – Bring Your Own Jesus. This week’s service was excellent, and Pastor Jim had me laughing so hard with his message! Some might call it sacrilege, but I like my church with a bit of entertainment 😉

Church ended at 11am, and my party was set to begin at 12:30pm. But thanks to the prep I had done, I wasn’t worried about time. That allowed me to stop by the grand opening celebration of the brand new park in my neighborhood, and say hi to some of our town trustees who had organized some neat events for the whole family.

How awesome is this slide, which replaces the traditional ladder/steps to the top with some rock scrambling?! The park also has a zipline, climbing tower, and adult fitness equipment, all of which I can’t wait to try, and is less than a half mile from my house. I love my town so much and am so grateful for its wonderful amenities like this!

Finally, at 11:45am, I made it home to get ready for the party. No sweat! I immediately turned the oven on to pre-heat while I mixed up the eggs for the egg bake. By the time I had those dishes ready to go, the oven was on – so I popped in the second carrot cake, the two trays of egg bake, and two trays of French toast. I wrote down what time each item needed to come out of the oven, and they all came out nearly perfect by party time!

As you can see from the marbled color, the recipe used cottage cheese and milk, which made the whole thing incredibly light and fluffy, and also allowed me to cut back on the grated cheese I added, to make it even a little bit healthier. This recipe is definitely a keeper!
Last time around I cooked this French toast a little longer than I would have liked, so this time I went shorter on the cooking time and took it out at exactly 30 minutes, like the recipe says. As a result, the French toast was soft and perfect, and the bananas had caramelized so beautifully that there was no need for any extra sugar or maple syrup. Healthy and delicious!

While those dishes baked, I set out several little buckets of candy, and then began putting together the mimosa station. Amanda was picking up her family from the airport and I told her to just come over whenever she could rather than making her kill time somewhere. So Amanda, David, and her parents arrived around noon, straight from the airport, when I was starting final prep. Normally, this would stress me out, but with my simple party plan, it was easy to chat with them while setting out the drinks (and getting help from David in doing so). I think this was the most relaxed I’ve ever been before a party, even though I had a jam-packed morning beforehand!

I’m normally not a candy person, but Easter is the one time of year it’s really easy to get white chocolate goodies, which I love.
And how cute are these little coconut macaroon nests? There were definitely more than enough sweet treats to go around!

Just as I was putting the final things out, neighbors and friends started arriving in earnest! I usually do my parties open house style, and it was lovely to have people coming and going for the next few hours, giving me a chance to chat at length with just about everyone. Toward the end of the afternoon, we even got some board games going around the dining room table! (Code Names is my favorite – highly recommend it for all ages.)

Fitness blogging friends unite! I love how my blog has introduced me to so many wonderful people both online and in real life. If you live in the greater Denver/Boulder area, be sure to drop me a line so I can maybe include you in that group 🙂

The last guests left around 5pm, and I was able to get everything cleaned up and put away by 5:20pm – not bad at all. I still needed to pack for my trip to Florida the next day, but decided to instead sneak in one more favorite activity: a hike/run before it got dark out.

After all that candy giving me a bit of a sugar high, I was antsy to do something other than sit around! I decided to check out the Flatirons Vista trailhead, which I had never before visited even though it was only five minutes from my house.

I had planned to hike/walk, but ended up doing a little bit of running when I saw how relatively flat the 3.5 mile loop was – at least compared to my usual 5K neighborhood loop, which gains 500 feet in the first half mile. The beginning of this loop was a steady uphill to the halfway point about 300 feet up, but then things eased up for the downhill the return and I was able to just enjoy the beautiful views.

I’ve decided I want to start trail running more, in preparation to hopefully get fast enough to go on group trail runs with others. This trail’s views certainly provide motivation for me to get out there more often!

I spent about an hour out on the trails, and then reluctantly headed home. Time to pack for a week in South Carolina! And, you know, relax on the couch for a bit first to blog about my perfect Easter Saturday 🙂 This was just such a wonderful day, full of all my favorite things, and I want to make sure I can replicate it in the future. Hope y’all have a wonderful Easter holiday, whether you’re celebrating today or tomorrow!


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