Happy 29th Birthday, Again

Today is the 12th year in a row we have celebrated Jim’s 29th birthday.  I keep waiting for him to catch up to me in age, but at this point in time, I’m just hoping to die soon enough that people don’t think I’ve married someone’s great grandson when I tell them how old I am and how old my husband is.  Today also illustrates one of the worst parts of Jim’s current assignment.  He’s not home for his birthday.  Not that if he was on a more local assignment being home was a guaranteed thing, but it would have been nice for the kids to be able to wake up and see him and wish him happy birthday.  At least they were all together when we called him this morning.  Of course, it was 6 AM his time, so I don’t know how much he appreciated the birthday wishes, but they wanted him to know they were thinking of him.

We’re looking forward to him coming home tonight, even though the kids will be in bed when he actually walks in the door.  They’ll have to wait until tomorrow morning to sing happy birthday, but I think that’s okay.  Birthdays are a big deal to the little ones, and they wouldn’t miss a chance to do something special, even if it is a day late.

But if you’re reading, Happy Birthday, James.  I love you as much this year as I did the last time you turned 29.  Maybe a little bit more 🙂

When You’re Gone

I usually listen to reruns of Howard Stern on my way home from dropping Jim off at the airport, but this past week, they had strippers on, which wasn’t too entertaining.  So I flipped on the radio station that I listen to as I was pulling away from the gate.  This song was playing…

“When You’re Gone”

I always needed time on my own
I never thought I’d need you there when I cry
And the days feel like years when I’m alone
And the bed where you lie is made up on your side

When you walk away I count the steps that you take
Do you see how much I need you right now

[Chorus]
When you’re gone
The pieces of my heart are missing you
When you’re gone
The face I came to know is missing too
When you’re gone
The words I need to hear to always get me through the day and make it ok
I miss you

I’ve never felt this way before
Everything that I do reminds me of you
And the clothes you left, they lie on the floor
And they smell just like you, I love the things that you do

When you walk away I count the steps that you take
Do you see how much I need you right now

[Chorus]

We were made for each other
Out here forever
I know we were, yeah
All I ever wanted was for you to know
Everything I’d do, I’d give my heart and soul
I can hardly breathe I need to feel you here with me, yeah

[Chorus]
So, yeah, I cried all the way home!!

What a Great Birthday I Had This Year :-)

I turned 43 GULP on Sunday, and after the stress of making sure Brighid’s party was perfect, I was glad to have a low key day planned.  Jim had given us a subscription to the theatre for Christmas, and as luck would have it, we had tickets to see Man of La Mancha on Saturday night.  My mom offered to do a sleep over with Eilis and Granuaile, so Jim and Brighid and I went to the show.  I had a lot of running to do on Saturday, but managed a shower and putting on decent clothes to go out.  After the show, we came back to the diner to grab something to eat.  Jim’s waitress was there – the same girl that waits on us every Thursday night.  Brighid got to see first hand how she pampers Jim – bringing him his big glass of water right away, already knowing what he is ordering, having his rice pudding packed to go. 

I woke up the usual time on Sunday, and Brighid and I went to Target to pick up some fall things for Eilis and Granuaile.  Brighid got a few pieces, too, and the one piece was a grey sweater that is adorable.  It will be so cute over a black turtelneck and jeans or even black slacks.  It’s just cute.  We then went and picked up Eilis and Granuaile and headed to Sakura for lunch.  The kids like it there, and they have a great soup.

We dropped the girls off at home and went to the supermarket, where we got stuff to grill.  My mother-in-law had left us with corn and watermelon, so we planned to roast the corn on the grill and picked up steak to go with it.  The corn was SUPER sweet and even though I can’t eat it, I took a big bite and chewed it until it had no flavor left – it was so good.  We set up a picnic outside and the kids had a great time running around and playing in the yard, swinging and sliding until it was getting time to get ready for bed.

The weather was so great – very fall like weather – and I got to use the camera I got as my birthday gift to take some nice pictures of the kids.  It was just a nice, relaxing birthday.  I wouldn’t mind 40 or 50 more just like it.

The Party’s Over! Brighid’s Sweet 16 Wrap Up

And I think it was a big success 🙂   It looked like everyone had fun, and even though the party officially ended at midnight, we still had a hanger on or two until almost 12:30.  The kids were all talking about it at school on Monday, so there was buzz over the weekend, and I think things went great.

We started with the family dinner at 6 o’clock, and we had a nice buffet with pretty good options.  There was Virginia baked ham, chicken marsala, baked ziti, and penne pasta with sausage and spinach in Alfredo sauce.  We had green beans almondine, salad, fruit salad, pepperoni and cheese.  The candle ceremony was a really nice tribute to some of Brighid’s favorite people.  She called them all up one at a time, gave them a flower, and they lit a candle around her cake.  We had chosen a small piece of music for each person, and that worked out nice.  When Angel came up to light Bean’s candle, Brighid got very teary and emotional over it.  And then the weirdest thing happened.  The candle kept flickering out.  Angel lit it two or three times, and after the fact, I tried several times, but we couldn’t get it lit no matter what.  It would flicker a second or two, then burn itself out.  I know Bean was there with us.

The kids began arriving about 7:15, and they all were so nicely dressed!   It was great to see them all jazzed up.  I think having it black tie optional maybe discouraged a few kids from coming, but there was a caterer who suggested it because it helped with the behavior of the kids.  I don’t know if it was the clothes, but I think this was a GREAT group.  There was no trouble from any of them.  At about 8 PM, we introduced Brighid, who was escorted in by a leprechaun.  I don’t know who looked more uncomfortable – Brighid or the little person.  His job for the evening was to hand out beads from his pot of gold to the guests as they came in and to mingle.  He didn’t do so much mingling, but made sure the kids all got beads coming in. 

The food for the kids was vitually untouched.  There were hot dogs, pizzas, hoagies, soft pretzels, and chicken tenders.  I ate one of the tenders myself, and it was delicious!   We ended up taking a ton of stuff home.  The hot dogs were half way eaten before I threw the rest away, and the hoagies were taken to the police station the night of the party, along with a big slice of birthday cake.  The chicken nuggets have been eaten over the course of the weeks since the party, both for lunches and dinners.  It’s been nice not to have to cook 🙂

The DJ, I think, was great.  We used Steve and Company, who we used for our wedding, Russell’s 50th birthday party, and Granuaile’s Christening.  He played a great range of music and the kids seem to really like him. 

I hope this was a party she’ll remember for the rest of her life.  She looked absolutely stunning in a gown that her Grandmom and Grandpop Andersen bought, with all of the beautiful jewelry accessories.  Her cake, from Duff Goldman, the Ace of Cakes from the Food Network and owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, was (from what I hear) delicious, and it was exactly what she wanted.  She danced the night away, and I know I’ll have happy memories of that night until I die.

Of course, I hope Eilis and Granuaile choose a vacation or something instead for their Sweet 16 😉

Take My House, Please!

We seem to be a day late and a dollar short on the home selling thing.  After a nice trip down to FL and official word of a transfer for Jim, we put our house up for sale.  The only place I’ll be moving at this rate though is  to a padded cell.

We’ve had three people in so far, with excellent feedback from all of the agents who have shown the place.  They say it’s clean, it’s bright, it shows really well.  But no one has made an offer.  We have another person coming in on Friday night, and hopefully, with the interest rate drop, they will have mortgage money available.  And they’ll love our house.

We put new carpet in downstairs, and painted the living room and the two kid bedrooms upstairs.  I fixed up the FL room so it looks like a playroom, and we had it painted, the drop ceiling removed, and a ceiling fan installed.  It looks nice out there.  The other day, I pulled up all the summer flowers, planted 21 yellow mums (because I read somewhere that yellow puts people in a mind to buy things), and put red mulch down to offset the yellow.  It looks great outside.  We have two pumpkins on the steps, Indian corn on both doors, and a pumpkin scare crow in the one mostly empty flower bed.  Very autumnal.  I also read it’s important to keep your house seasonal looking.  Ours does, for sure.

But this is like a full time job.  I drop the kids off at school in the morning, then race home to load breakfast dishes, clean the stove and wipe the kitchen counters and cabinets down.  Then I go to each kid room to make (in Eilis’ case re-make) the beds and pick up any dirty clothes or toys or books that are on the floor.  Then I hit each bathroom with the Mr. Clean wipes and wipe down the sink, the counter, and the outside of the toilet.  I finally this morning put those Clorox toilet cleaning tablets in each toilet, and I’m hoping that will eliminate having to clean the toilet every day.  I sweep out the bathroom upstairs every day and I sweep the kitchen and dining room every day.  I run some sort of sweeper downstairs every day – usually the little one.  But if the carpet is especially fuzzy, I have to bring out the big vacuum to really pick stuff up.  And I run the sweeper in the FL room every day that the kids are out there.  And now it smells like dog out there 🙁   Not a bad dog smell, but definitely a dog smell.  I hope people are discouraged from buying the house because of it.  The real estate agents don’t think it smells, but some people won’t buy a house with a dog in it.

On days when I have time, I mop the kitchen and bathroom floors, and at least once a week, I mop the hardwood floors.  When I take Granuaile out to play, she plays while I pull weeds.  And I never let the laundry baskets get to the point where you can see the dirty clothes over the top.  The only room that really needs work is the laundry room.  My desk is a mess and there is some stuff on top of the freezer and on top of the dryer.

On a positive note, I won’t have to look far to sell some of my furniture when we move.  My mom’s friend Harry is chomping at the bit to buy my dining room set and my freezer – although I don’t know if I’m selling that.  He’s also interested in my living room set and my bedroom set – which I also don’t think I’m selling.  But he said if I am selling stuff when I move, call him first before I have a yard sale or anything. 

I have St. Joseph buried outside, updside down, with an angel marking the spot where he’s buried so we know where to dig him up from.  I have St. Joseph’s prayer card displayed in the dining room so I see it every day and remember to say a little prayer that he is working on selling the house.  I may take that to the funny farm with me so it doesn’t look like I’m talking to myself 😉

Adventures in Cooking

I am not by any stretch a gourmet.  I am not great in the kitchen, and the things I know how to make are simple things, or things that my mother and Grandmom Fee or Grandmom Bilbrough made for years.  As she gets older, I think my mother does more experimenting in the kitchen than I do.  But having three kids, all with different palates, can make adventurous cooking a dangerous – and wasteful – thing.

With Jim in Milwaukee and only the three palate princesses to cook for, our weekly menu had become a bit of a rut.  One night we did hot dogs.  One night we did grilled cheese sandwiches.  One night I did something in a crockpot or roasted something in the oven.  And the first night Jim is gone usually consists of left overs from our weekends eating out.  I was determined this week to find things that the kids would mostly like – or at least TRY.  I scoured my own personal cookbook – which, when I first got it nearly 20   years ago was filled with things that sounded good at the time (of course, that was before kids, dogs, husbands, and the limits those things put on your time), but are not practical right now.  David Rappaport’s Lamb Stew, a page I ripped out of the book this week and threw away, was an event like Hanukah, multiple nights long, which seemed to require an intimate relationship with a butcher to get the right cut of meat and access to a vegetable co-op to have enough of the various vegetables to make this dish a success.  I also yanked some ambitious pasta dishes, anything that required me stuffing various fruits and vegetables into a cornish game hen, and everything that contained quail eggs (people with 3 children do not need recipes that require quail eggs).  I was left with a few recipes that looked easy enough to try, and the family favorites we just cannot live without.

As a result, we tried two new recipes this week.  The first one was Pasta Pronto – fettucine in an Alfredo type sauce with asparagus, onion, and Canadian bacon.  The kids LOVED this recipe (and I’ll post it on the recipe page).  They scarfed down a good bit of it for dinner, and the rest of it was easily devoured for lunch the next day.  It is definitely a keeper recipe for us, and the fact that it’s easy, has only a few ingredients, and was eaten by all 3 kids without complaint makes it a regular in the dinner rotation.

The other recipe we tried this week was a Scallop and Bacon chowder.  Since my surgery, I eat a lot of soup, and I find that scallops are very easy for me to eat most of the time.  This seemed like the perfect meal to me.  I didn’t factor in the fact that since it’s a chowder, it is made with heavy cream, which made it thick and rich, but I could barely eat any of it, so I know I didn’t get the full benefit of the protein in the scallops.  Brighid really liked it and wants me to make it again.  Eilis thought it smelled bad, but she doesn’t typically eat scallops.  I thought I could cleverly disguise them in this dish and she wouldn’t realize she was eating scallops.  She does eat a lot of other seafood, so who knew she’d be aware enough to know this wasn’t in her normal seafood diet.  Granuaile ate it without complaint, but it’s hard to give her a bowl of soup – even as thick as this one.  It’s more work to feed her than it was to make the chowder.  This will become a once in a while, maybe on a cold winter’s night type dish.

I’ll post both recipes on the recipe part of our family website.  As soon as I remember how to get there.

The Birthday Party Wrap Up – Granuaile’s Second

Post from April, 2007  

Well we all know that sometimes even the best laid plans go awry, so when I wait until the last minute, can’t figure out what to do, and put way less effort into a party than I should have, I should expect stuff to go wrong.  Stuff did, but it worked out okay in the end.

To begin with, I made 2 dozen cupcakes to supplement my 1/4 sheet cake, which I knew was going to be too small to serve the number of guests I ended up having.  I food colored each group of 6 cupcakes to reflect a color of one of the Backyardigans, and then I iced them in complimentary Backyardigans inspired colors, topping each with a Backyardigans fruit snack.  They looked so good that Rosie, our 5 month old Irish Wolfhound, decided to help herself to one.  And another.  And another.  9 cupcakes – with wrappers – later, I worried that my 1/4 sheet cake and my 15 cupcakes might not be enough dessert 🙁

The morning of the party, we get a phone call from Wegman’s bakery.  They have an order for a plain, white cake.  Didn’t I want decoration or something on the cake??   This call comes just hours before the party and a week after I met with a member of the bakery staff to give them the photo that I wanted on the cake along with the information regarding what to write on the cake and what colors to use.  I end up with an assistant to the bakery manager on the phone, and she apologizes, encourages me to meet with the bakery manager when I come to the store, then asks me to pick the cake up an hour late and she will not charge me.  I ended up with a really cute cake, 1/2 sheet instead of 1/4, everything spelled right, and totally free of charge.  As I’m sorting out the cake issue with the bakery manager at the store, Jim goes to catering to pick up the pre-ordered trays.  Oooppps.  There is an incident with the trays that results in them needing to be redone.  It will take them another 45 minutes to re-do the trays.  On the plus side, they give us a lovely strawberry shortcake to compensate us for the inconvenience.  Just what we need – more dessert!   Lastly, my daughter woke up this morning, and when we wished her Happy Birthday, she immediately asked for a balloon, which a week ago I promised she could have on her birthday.  I picked one up at Wegman’s, but no one knew how much it was or how to ring it up.  They called a manager, who never showed up, and then on the way out, Jim found one, who gave me the balloon at half price.  So while economically, it worked out GREAT to have the party catered through Wegman’s, the stress level was high through the whole day.

Here’s what we had, and what worked well, what didn’t:

Wokery Party Tray – This lovely arrangement of Asian specialties was like a pu-pu platter.  It featured Chinese BBQ spare ribs, pot stickers, shrimp purses; mini pork egg rolls, and garlic chicken wings.  This tray disappeared faster than I thought it would.  At first, I thought people might be put off by the Chinese food, but the spare ribs were a huge hit, and were gone well before the end of the party.  I threw away only one lone little shrimp purse when the party was over.  Everything else was eaten.

Suprimo Platter – The platter was very nice – it was kind of like pepperoni bread – a crusty bread outside, stuffed with Italian meats and cheeses.  The problem with it was it was thinly sliced, and when we heated it per the instructions, most of the cheese oozed out.  As a result, some of it stuck to the tray.  This platter was also pretty expensive.  I could have gotten pepperoni bread from Duffield’s for about $3 per loaf and sliced it myself.  Those who ate this said it was very good, and Eilis and Grace ate it for lunch a couple of days.  I just don’t think it was worth it for what we got out of it.

Just for Nibbles Platter – This was a combo of fresh veggies for dipping and bite size squares of cheese, ham, and turkey.  I had almost this entire platter left over.  Mostly what got eaten was the celery, and that was probably by my girls, who love celery.  I packed school lunches with the mom version of a lunchable – Eilis got a container of the bites of ham, cheese, and turkey, and a few of the fresh veggies, and a little cream cheese for dipping.  She enjoyed it the first day, took it a second day, and asked for a normal sandwich on day 3.  This was about $30 and a total waste. 

Deviled Eggs – Yep, gotta do them

Roast Pork Cuban style with black beans and rice – I made this myself, and was hoping for a sweeter flavor to the pork.  It was still good – and even better the next night with gravy.  I made two small roasts, but had plenty leftover for dinner two nights.  The rice and beans wasn’t a huge hit – I think this crowd is more the traditional meatball kinda crowd.

Spinach Dip – Wildly popular.  I like the stuff, but can’t believe it’s such a big hit. 

Fruit Tray – The dip on this tray did not win any medals.  Usually, the Acme has a cream cheese dip that everyone loves, but Wegman’s tray had like a banana yogurt dip, and the kids didn’t love it, the adults didn’t like it.  There was way more fruit left than I usually have left over, and that was with my kids hogging up all the grapes before company got here.  One of my kids complained that the strawberries were sour, so I think in the future, we’ll be getting the fruit from the Acme, as usual.

Chips and Dip – For the first time ever, I still had chips and dip left.  This usually gets devoured, but with so much other food, I think people just bypassed this for the other stuff.

Granuaile had a great time being the Birthday girl, and Eilis had a great time being the Birthday girl’s big sister.  We had goodie bags that consisted of some Backyardigans toys, and for the little ones, we had Backyardigans plates.  It’s so nice to see the cousins all playing together, and they really did this time around.  Even though my kids are girls and most of the other cousins are boys, they all seem to get along most of the time.

We did good for a second birthday.  I think we’ll go a little smaller next year, but no one can ever complain about leaving here hungry.

Happy Birthday to Me – Almost

Well, my 40something birthday is coming up in another 12 days, and my daughter’s Sweet 16 party is coming up in just 3 days.  Conveniently, my power cord for my digital disaster of a camera has gone missing, and apparently, they no longer stock them in stores.  It would cost $70 to buy one from Sony directly, so Jim thought it would be better to just replace the camera.

After a little searching around, we settled on the Nikon D40X Digital SLR – and oh boy am I impressed and confused!   I am not the best photographer in the world, so I’ll be taking a few classes, but we took a couple of pictures with it over the weekend, and they turned out so good!   I don’t have a good zoom lens yet, but even without, you can see right up Granuaile’s nose in one picture of her sleeping after Lake Pine Day.  But the thing that I’m most impressed about is the color!   We had an impromptu picnic last night, and I had set out bowls for the kids to eat fruit in.  A picture of them showed up such vivid colors!  

I’m hoping I catch up now on pics of Granuaile, the third and least photographed child of the bunch.  At some point, I should do scrap books for her and Eilis like I did for Brighid.  In my free time.

But anyway, thank you Jim, for this amazing gift.  I hope to capture many happy moments of our life together 🙂