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Some traditions are worth upholding (like mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving), but others could stand for a little improvement.
Today: Our inventive Easter basket ideas work just as well for Mother's Day or any spring gift—but this weekend, they're about to put somebunny out of business.
Don't get me wrong here: Hand anyone a basket full of chocolates (especially if some of them are egg-shaped, filled with golden chemical cream, and wrapped in foil), and they will not say no. Easter sweets and the holiday's jumble of pastel motifs are welcome signs of spring, especially for young people; I loved my Easter basket as a child, with its translucent green plastic grass and medley of assorted candies from the previous Halloween.
But now I'm adult, full of wisdom and class, and it's time to face the music that there's a much better way to build an Easter basket. The following ideas are catered to all types of loved ones—regardless of who deserves one.
1. For the loved-one always asking "what's fresh?"
We all have a family member or friend who is impossible to grocery shop with, badgering the smiling face behind the fish counter in your land-locked town—wanting to know "what's just come in from the docks?"—and cornering every farmer at the market begging for baby broccoli tops "I know you have back there." (Maybe this crazy is even you!)
As payback for all your years of eye-rolling (or as an indulgence to yourself), pack up an Easter basket with eggs right from the henhouse—bonus points if you can find speckled or blue-green ones. Nestle them in a tuft of wheatgrass, because hunting for eggs in tall grass is an important tradition this holiday, and nestle that inside a nice nonstick skillet, because it's the right thing to do. Throw in a wedge of nutty cheese to fold into a scramble, good Irish butter, and a little finishing salt and for once, the question-asker will shut up.
2. For the person who refuses to feed the dog
Responsibility is a learned trait (quicker to stick on some than others), and is best grown with practice. If you know a young person who likes the idea of being in charge rather than the realities associated with it, consider a gardening-themed basket. (While we are all for keeping plants alive, the garden is a better training ground for teaching responsibility than the doghouse.) Fresh flowers—that need to be cared for—are incentive in and of themselves, and antiqued terra cotta pots, sharp gardening shears, heirloom seeds, and slate markers make up a basket that'll inspire a little growing up in anyone...if anything will.
Don't feel limited to young ones, of course: Any gardening-lover in your house will appreciate a pair of gloves without holes in them, a bar of locally-made soap, and cheery perennials. Offering to water the houseplants this day is encouraged.
3. For that certain someone who lives in gym clothes
The health-nut in everyone emerges during spring, fueled by the sudden appearance of delicate baby lettuces, herbacious sauces, and cold soups that pose as meals in restaurants everywhere. The weather doesn't help; it's all brisk and sunny and people smile more, which leads to a general excitement about jogging and the suggestion of "taking a walk" instead of splitting a bottle of wine.
For your healthy friend (the one who is unhealthily obsessed with signing up for workout classes online) craft a basket of delicious foods posing as healthy foods. Red wine and chocolate are good for you, it's a proven fact, and so is kale—nevermind if it's eventually baked it into a gratin with cream and cheese. French lentils, microgreens that cost more than the latest workout gear, fancy nut oil, and a porcelain berry basket keep you from seeming like a real jerk.
4. For the family member you always clean up after
Call anyone "creative" and they will instantly love you more—the science behind this strategy proves that it works especially well on messy people. Applied to the art of Easter baskets, these findings suggest that a heap of crafting supplies are a good idea for anyone who doesn't know the difference between a rag and a tea towel; they'll hopefully channel that disorganization into artistry, though it doesn't lessen the chance of another mess to clean up.
A trip to the craft store will turn up reams of yarn and thread, some classic colors of pom pom trim for a project that might come back to you on Mother's Day, and paints to go with a tiny canvas. Tuck in something personal, like a pair of antique brass-handled scissors, and your budding artist might even remember to thank you.
5. For your teenager you love the most who wants to be an architect
Okay, okay, I admit it: This is my dream Easter basket—a vintage toolbox packed with everything you need to plan room rearrangements, hang various oddities on the walls, and entertain whims about being an architect. It's the basket for anyone who likes to tuck a pencil behind her ear (the kind with a knobby red eraser on it), the basket for a newlywed who has a new home to decorate, or for the spouse who has never lifted a finger to help hang anything—just kidding! I do not recommend this basket as a means of passive-aggression.
Pretty woodcut stationary, any variety of airplant (the succulents of 2015), and a don't-hate-me plush bunny are the keys to keeping it fun.
What are you putting in your Easter baskets this year? Share your best ideas in the comments!
Photographs by Mark Weinberg