parties

Day 15: 10th birthday latergram

We celebrated Rose’s 10th birthday last night. 10 is kind of a big deal, both for us emotionally, and for her milestone-ally. We wanted it to be really special.

After a weekend in New York visiting friends Rose wanted to celebrate with family at home. She asked for Shane’s ribs and he basically took it from there, with a few gentle reminders from me about how people might want some vegetables.

Shane’s now makes ribs with ease in his Smokey Mountain Smoker. This is a relief, because there was a time when he would labor for days over only to declare them unfit for dinner because the meat didn’t fall off the bone in quite the right way. He spent a good part of the past week preparing and smoking the ribs and making Boston Baked Beans from scratch along with a couple of homemade sauces. His new go-to site is Amazing Ribs (dot com).

Family pulled us through the rest. My sister made two batches of cornbread (one “chunky” and one plain) with fancy herbed butter. My mom made a batch of our family favorite Blair Slaw (recipe below). Ronni brought one of her amazing salads. And JP Licks took care of the cake for us (chocolate Oreo & mint chip ice cream with Oreo garnishes).

Aside from arriving late because of the car accident, things were pretty easy. My mom decorated while we were away—thank goodness I saved the hand-cut hand-glittered birthday decorations from when she was five— and had the periwinkle and/or cornflower balloons and roses delivered (by my dad).

It was a truly lovely night and seeing our amazing girl so happy and gracious kind of made up for the heartbreak of her hitting the double-digits.

• Blair Slaw •
from our friend Blair’s mom

3 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups thawed frozen peas
3 cups chopped scallions
3/4 cups toasted chopped almonds (or pecans, or both)

Dressing:
1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons curry powder (toasted in pan until golden-er)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Put chopped cabbage, peas, and scallions in a large bowl. Chop nuts and toast gently in the oven or a pan until just golden – watch to make sure they don’t burn. Set nuts aside.

Mix dressing ingredients to combine and add to salad bowl with cabbage mixture and nuts. Toss dressing, cabbage mixture and nuts until evenly coated. Serve cool/cold.

 

30 days of posting challenge: day 14

I want to tell you all about the meal we had for Rose’s 10th birthday tonight. I really do. But after being at the front of a 3 car accident and arriving home 1/2 an hour after the party was supposed to start, we’re plum worn out.

Tune in tomorrow to hear about the meal Shane spent all week preparing, and more. Love to all the family who cooked, set up, and came out on a school night. I’m off to ice my neck.

xoxo

Easter Saturday 2017

This is the first Easter in forever that we have not had at my parents’ house. That’s because their lovely house is currently being torn apart and turned into a two-family house, with one unit for my folks and one for our crazy gang of four.

We had our annual Easter Saturday lunch and egg hunt at my parents’ temporary gigs, where due to size restrictions we simplified significantly. My mom asked people to bring salads and she and my dad served up lots of good bread, cold cuts and other sandwich fixings.

It was not our usual savory pie extravaganza (which you can read about here, here, here and here) we’ll get back to that next year, but it was easy and perfect. And a gorgeous day to boot.

As always, there were over 100 eggs and a gang of kids who were delighted to find them. This year, the eggs were numbered and it wasn’t the kid who found the most eggs, but the kids who found the three lucky eggs with a fiver in them who won. So basically everybody was happy and every kid won.

After lunch we died eggs using tinted shaving cream in plastic bags, which was pretty weird and also lovely to behold.

Christ is risen, y’all.

xoxo

Lookin’ good at 50

The awesome thing that happened this week was that our good friend Drew turned 50. Being a chef and all, he invited the whole gang out to his family’s amazing home in the countryside for a weekend of eating well and relaxing with friends. Added bonus? Drew did almost all of the cooking.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and wasted no time getting started on margaritas, oysters and the biggest and best batch of guacamole I’ve ever eaten.

The party really started when the young boys got naked and jumped off the furniture, and the young girls took up darts and pool. With the kids occupied, the parents were free to drink more margaritas. And eat more guacamole.

Dinner was fajitas of many kinds. It seemed like Drew was prepared for pretty much any fajita request. Chicken or beef? Yes. Pulled pork? Natch. Vegetarian? But of course. The homemade pickled jalapenos were a big hit too.

Dessert was a massive tray of tiramisu made by Drew, a gorgeous cake of unknown origin, and a whole pasta pot full of molasses chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with sea salt (by Shane who missed dessert because he was putting Sid to bed).

There were even more desserts but we didn’t have room, so we ate them in the morning.

Happy Birthday Drew, we thought you looked good already.

 

New Year’s Eve

For one reason and another, it’s been a good long while since we had a proper New Year’s Eve celebration with lots of friends and family.

We almost didn’t make it to this one. It’s been a not-so-awesome week off with illness, daylight deprivation, and some disappointing news on the new home construction front. I just barely persuaded Shane—who has bronchitis at the least, and more likely pneumonia—to make a brief appearance with some of his Gratin Dauphinois.

Shane’s poor health excepted, it was a perfect evening. Warm, cozy and relaxed, with favorite people and excellent food… and only one significant temper tantrum from Sid.

On the menu: prime rib roast from Adams FarmGratin Dauphinois (aka potato gratin), roasted carrots and beets from an organic farm in western Mass, Jenya’s mom Carole’s popovers, my grandma Lillian’s Company Carrots, delicious green salad, and New Year’s Eve Cake (aka Baked Alaska) for dessert.

Highlights included Chris’ idea to fill his popover with potato gratin (an idea akin in it’s brilliance to the cake ‘n cone). The baked Alaska wasn’t as good as usual, maybe due to hectic circumstances at home, or maybe because we forgot the penguins, but if you follow this recipe, it usually works every time.

I can’t imagine a nicer way to end 2016 and since I’m a post-apocalyptic fiction junkie, I’m completely prepared for 2017.

Happy New Year!

The wee laddie is 3

Sid turned 3 yesterday. Figuring it was probably our last chance to do so, we had a very small gathering in the afternoon, planned somewhat at the last minute.

Shane had the forethought to makes meatballs from the Polpo cookbook, not because people would be expecting a meal at 3:00 in the afternoon, but because he knew most of us would probably linger past party time and end up wanting some dinner. And that’s what happened.

But first we had cheese, crackers, berries and juice boxes. The boys ran around in circles with balloons until Sid asked to have cupcakes. He cried when we sang for him but quickly recovered and ate his cupcake with several requests for candle re-lighting (but no singing) which we obliged.

The cupcakes were chocolate (Hellman’s Mayonnaise) cake, which we adapted by filling standard tins 2/3 of the way, and baking for 15 minutes. We frosted them with cream cheese and butter frosting (recipe below). After that Sid opened his presents, asking each time “Is this one my present?” and responding with delight when we said yes.

The Polpo meatballs make me happy, even though I don’t eat meatballs, because they don’t take very long to make. Shane made a batch of Marcella’s sauce for me—and anyone else not wanting meat—and my mom made two salads. The boys had plain pasta and wheat thins while watching Frozen on somebody’s phone.

At the end of the night, I asked Sid if he liked his party and would like to have another one next year. He said yes and that he would like a Bobcat.

Happy birthday our Siddy. We love you.

• Butter & Cream Cheese Frosting •

1 to 1.5 lbs confectioner’s sugar, sifted
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and cream cheese in an electric stand mixer until combined and smooth. Add the the vanilla and blend. Add confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time until desired consistency and level of sweetness is achieved. You will use approximately 1 to 1.5 lbs of sugar. Makes enough to frost a 2 layer 9″ cake or 24 cupcakes.

Beautiful birthday

“Do you want to have dinner on your birthday?” Shane asked me on the evening of Rose’s birthday (which happens to be exactly a week before mine). “In general, I like to have dinner every night.” I replied.

“Would you like pasta primavera for your birthday dinner?” he asked a little while later, as he perused the cookbook Rose gave him for Father’s day. “I would LOVE pasta primavera.” I said. “Let’s do dinner at my parent’s house. With the usual people. And early, so that Sid will be less likely to melt down. I know! A non-sit down dinner at a non-meltdown time!” Oh, I’m good.

Oh… I have good intentions.

Despite Sid’s numerous meltdowns, it was a lovely birthday dinner because the pasta was amazing and all of the salads were amazing and the cake—which was cut so fast I couldn’t get a picture—was my grandma’s recipe made by my mom, and had lots of chocolate in the middle and extra chocolate on the side. And most importantly, the people I love were there.

And we played Pictionary.

Happy birthday to me. xoxo

 

This kid is 9

Rose turned 9 today. I’m not freaking out about it because I know I’m going to freak out big time when she turns 10. She asked to have sushi for her birthday dinner, and instead of a cake, she wanted to make Rice Crispy treats with me and put candles in them.

Our sushi order for 3 (Sid doesn’t really eat dinner) usually arrives with at least 8 pairs of chop sticks and a 3 figure bill. I asked Shane to help us economize this time by making himself a filling side dish. He made a cheeseburger.

After our weirdly satisfying sushi/burger dinner, we had the aforementioned treats, with candles and chocolate covered strawberries. It was a beautiful evening. Happy, happy birthday our Rose. We love you infinitely.

 

Summer birthdays

Labor Day 2016We close out every summer with a birthday celebration for my sister Anna. We either have steak or Mexican, and I almost always make a cake. This year was a steak year. But first, we had sidecar cocktails, veggies, dips, cheese, crackers, ribs from the smoker, shrimp cocktail, lots of family, 8 trips to the grocery store, an epic happy birthday song, and one husband almost lost at sea.

We really earned our sidecars that night. First, we had an awful lot of people and were just plain disorganized, thus the 8 trips to the store. Then, Shane decided to go for a nice kayak as hurricane Hermine approached.

Shane is a big, strong man, but he’s no match for a hurricane. While I decided whether to be mad at him for being dead, or mad at him for not showing up to make cocktails on time, my dad and Bob kept their wits about them. Dad and Bob drove around the bay looking for a big, stranded man and found him. He arrived back and made sure everyone had a sidecar in hand just in time for Sid to serenade his Auntie Anna.

Once we had everyone more or less intact, we sat down to steak accompanied by tater tots, Iceberg Wedge Salad, and ultimately Belgian chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting (which some folks chose to eat as a Cake ‘n Cone).

I made Belgian chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Frosting for Anna’s birthday two years ago. It was amazing, but the filling—though interesting with white cake mix for flavoring—didn’t seem entirely worth the effort. This year I made it with just the malted chocolate frosting and 3 layers of moister-than-moist cake. It was a tremendous hit and I’ll be sure to make it again.

Thanks to all the folks who helped out with the kids and my mental state while Shane was off battling the hurricane and possibly dead. And happy, happy birthday Auntie Anna!

 

 

 

Easter, finally

Ok, so it’s taken me a week to get around to posting about Easter. Or has it been two? Honestly, I don’t know, but here we go. Our annual Easter Saturday party was HUGE.

In advance of the weekend, it was seeming like we were expecting a lot of people to attend. Because of that, I excused myself from any planning whatsoever.  Not to say I didn’t help, I did some prep, some set-up and a lot of clean up but the credit, as always goes to my mom and dad.

The event was orchestrated and primarily executed by my mom, with a ton of help (and the littlest bit of griping) from my dad and a lot of help from everyone else. To eat there were several pies, many salads, Gail’s famous hot cross buns, strawberries, bloody Marys, mimosas and tons of candy.

We had over 50 people in attendance and 160 eggs for the kids to find. The party went from noon to night.

The favorite new twist was Pysanka, or Ukranian egg decorating. It’s a complicated process that involves several layers of wax meticulously applied to the egg and multiple dippings in vibrant dye. It’s awesome.

Happy Easter folks. Now for more snow.