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The Valley Line: La Cañada families get together via Zoom for Easter celebrations

The extended Caswell family and friends take part in an Easter gathering over Zoom.
The extended Caswell family and friends take part in an Easter gathering over Zoom.
(Courtesy of the Caswell family)

It has been almost a month since I last chatted with you in the Valley Line. I’ve missed all of you as we usually see each other at club events, book clubs, the symphony, a theater performance, in the grocery store or at the local movie theater.

Sheltering in place has changed all our lives, and we are finding different ways to communicate. I thought it would be fun to check in with different families around La Cañada Flintridge to see how they celebrated Easter Sunday.

Since I can’t visit my usual haunts or physically see my friends, I quickly realized how we simply cannot do without our electronics.

Checking in by calling the cellphones of my friends I quickly found that Easter celebrations had a whole new look this year as most holiday gatherings were done via the hottest computer tablet and phone application called Zoom, well known as a video conferencing tool for businesses. Now, since we are “shut-ins,” this is the way we can get together with our families who can be miles or oceans away.

Joani Bartoli-Porto said her day began with Easter Mass on TV and Andrea Bocelli’s concert at the Duomo in Milan. Later Joani and her husband Carmen Zoomed with their daughter, Francesca Giaimo, and her husband, Santino Stoner, Studio City residents, and their daughter, Vanessa, and her husband, Kris Doan, who live in West Melbourne, Fla. It was fun for them to watch their Doan grandkids, Benjamin, who is 7, and his 5-year-old sister, Sicily, show off their new rollerblades and skates the Easter Bunny delivered to them.

Because Francesca and her hubby live nearby, they did a food exchange. Joani and Carmen drove over to Francesca’s house and left in their driveway the family’s traditional Easter brunch of Italian strata, bird nest cookies and caramel pecan rolls in exchange for Francesca’s gift of extra masks and gloves and a bouquet of lavender and roses from her garden. Joani said, “We are all making the best of this time by making lemons into Limocello!”

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Gale and Tom Caswell also had a major Zoom gathering with about 14 families. These families have traditionally met at the Caswell’s La Cañada home for an Easter brunch. This year they did some extensive planning for the celebration. The main menu attraction for this brunch was a special recipe of orange blossom French toast that Gale mailed out in advance.

They all gathered on Zoom when their scrumptious gourmet toast was ready at all houses, and they shared breakfast news with one another. Gale and Tom were wearing their bunny ears for the occasion.

La Cañada residents Gale and Tom Caswell don bunny ears to participate in their Easter brunch Zoom gathering with longtime friends and family.
La Cañada residents Gale and Tom Caswell don bunny ears to participate in their Easter brunch Zoom gathering with longtime friends and family.
(Courtesy of the Caswell family)

Gale also mentioned that each Friday she Zooms with friends Jody Kenney, Barbara Povall and Robin Williams for a cocktail hour.

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Brenda and Len Pieroni were fortunate that their two kids, Alison and Lennie, who both attend Notre Dame University in Indiana, were able to come home for the holiday. This made for an extra-special time for Brenda and Len since they hadn’t seen them since their Christmas break.

Brenda said they had such fun coloring and then deviling Easter eggs. One of them was a double-yolker which Brenda says means good luck for the coming year. Meal prep was a joy and they served a baked ham, potatoes au gratin and a great leafy salad.

Jeb Long, husband of Len’s mom, Marilyn, played Easter bunny by leaving candy in their driveway early in the morning.

It was Zoom time later when they shared the day with Brenda’s folks — Karen and Gary Bloomfield in Pullman, Wash., Jeb and Marilyn and Len’s sister Vicki and her husband, Steve, who live in La Jolla. Later in the evening the Pieroni family Zoomed with Lara Kessler, their 2014-15 exchange student who lives in Zug, Switzerland.

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Jane and Dan Owen spent the day watching old movies on the TCM channel. Of course, they watched “Easter Parade” featuring Judy Garland, along with more serious movies such as “Ben Hur.”

“We were very nontraditional for our Easter meal,” Jane told me. “I baked a succulent chicken and made our favorite lentil soup. We had a great rainy day staying in last Sunday.”

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Sheri and Dave Morton had a quiet Easter. Sheri began the day taking her dog Molly (aka “By-Golly-Miz Molly”) for a walk with her neighbors Erin, Quinn and Liam Seltzer. I understand from Sheri that Quinn and Liam think that Miz Molly is their dog too.

The Morton family also attended church online and watched Bocelli’s concert in Milan.

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As for the Neely family, we Zoomed with sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and a soon-to-be son-in-law. The big news of the family gathering was that my daughter, Heather, announced her engagement to Gonzalo Peralta, a Canadian from Ottawa who also has a home in the province of Quebec. Gonzalo was online too, so there were congratulations all around.

According to the newly engaged couple, Gonzalo proposed to Heather over Zoom earlier in the week. With everyone sheltered in place, they don’t know when they will see each other to seal the deal with a kiss. They hope it will be soon!

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