Making pretty with what you have


We hosted a little birthday celebration for my mom yesterday.
As we were driving back from the beach in the morning my mind began to wander as to what needed to be done once I got home to prepare for the party. Bake a strawberry rhubarb cobbler, clean the bathroom, marinate the chicken and asparagus for the grill, make a few flower arrangements…..

I wanted to be able to entertain mostly outdoors since it was going to be a warm evening but I began to get into a funk as I thought about our back porch which is looking a bit run down (plans to rebuild it next month!) and the fact that we needed new outdoor furniture and that I wished there was some money in the budget for some new plants and …… you get the point.
I stopped myself and said “Amy you can do this. You can get creative and make a beautiful outdoor experience with what you have. I know you can!”

After the car was unpacked and a visit to the market I got to work.
I swept the patio and porch clean (what a difference a clean swept space makes!) and unearthed the patio umbrella from the garage. I brought out a woven rug and laid it out on the porch. To serve hors d’oeuvres, I set up my antique ironing board with a pretty cloth napkin and glass jars filled with stems of Solomons Seal and Honeysuckle. I placed a piece of large flagstone on top of a clay crock and one on top of the stand that holds our fire pit to make little tables to set food and drinks on. I used a basket tray to place on top of one the tables for a homey feel and set out a bouquet of flowers and a votive. Instead of buying flowers, I made arrangements from my own garden of Lambs Ear, Catmint, Hosta leaves, Enonymous and Comfrey. I got out the birthday flags and stuck them in arrangements and planters and set out a chalkboard wishing my mom a Happy Birthday when she arrived.

When I was finished I stepped back and fell in love with the cozy outdoor party space made entirely with things found around my home and garden. Later that night as I was blowing out candles and cleaning glasses off of my makeshift tables I realized I hadn’t noticed all night how run down the porch was. I sort of like it now.

Let’s start with cake…

cake 1cake 5cake 3cake 2cake 4
We usually drag birthdays out as long as possible around here. The day you were born is an important day to celebrate so why not do it over several days or even a week!

Although Hannah doesn’t turn 12 until Tuesday, we began the festivities with a birthday cake with friends last night. I made this cake and it was to die for!
I am usually a chocolate cake with buttercream or cream cheese icing kind of gal but this cake spoke to me when I read the icing was made with sour cream and bittersweet chocolate.
The tangy to sweet ratio was perfect! Warning: make enough icing to ice your cake and eat it too. It was hard to stop tasting!

When I came home from the store to unpack the cake ingredients I was disappointed to find that I had overlooked the bittersweet chocolate I had bought contained almonds. Chris was nice enough to run back out for me. He couldn’t find plain bittersweet but did come home with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate. He thought combined it would do the job. And he was right. It was perfect.

And there is still cake left over. Cake counts as breakfast right?

Turning 8 and a Sleepover

DSC_0216 DSC_0219 DSC_0224 DSC_0228 DSC_0231
While talking to my mom the other day she told me she had been a bit disappointed with second and edgemont as of late.
thanks for the nudge mom, you’re right, i’ve been a bit absent.
she even reminded me i hadn’t posted about norah’s birthday yet!

our little norie turned 8 this november.
her birthday wish was to get her ears pierced and have a sleepover party.
both went quite successfully.

i hardly snapped a photo (hence the blurry not so great photos above) of the celebration since i was busy with a party of 12 girls. yes you read right, 12!
it was our first experience hosting a sleepover party and it actually ran quite smoothly especially for such a large gaggle of girls ranging from 7-12 years old.

there was pizza making, chocolate cupcakes with butter cream icing, rainbow looming, and a movie .
oh and there was lots of chattering, laughing, squealing and screaming in between.

chris and i were quite surprised when we found them all asleep by 11pm.

i heard the first few up whispering at 6am which soon turned into giggling and then loud thumping.
a game of “slide down the staircase in your sleeping bag” had begun.

our cue to get up and start making pancakes.

Happy Birthday Hannah

11 years ago today i became a mama.
it was the one thing i was certain i wanted to be ever since i was a little girl.
and when your papa and i started dating at 19 years old we began talking about being parents almost immediately.
i think we even picked our boy and girl names on our 3rd or 4th date.
hannah would be our girl.
and here you are.
hannah margaret.
the most beautiful creature both inside and out.
loving,caring and kind.
all smiles. big bright infectious smiles.
all long and lean and leggy.
a born leader.
responsible, dependable and on time (you even came on your due date).
growing like a weed (ever since you came out as your 10 pound two ounce self!)
into a lovely young lady who i just can’t seem to get enough of.
thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing me as your mama.
you bring me so much joy each and every day.
happy birthday.
i love you.
mama xo

A Birthday Brunch

and the celebrating continues.
this morning we had friends and family over for a birthday brunch for hannah.
we made a very large dutch baby (a recipe from a bed and breakfast on our honeymoon to alaska), potato hash with spinach and eggs, fresh fruit, cream scones and salty dogs made with fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit. (from 3191Q).
the conversation and company lingered well on into late afternoon making for the perfect sunday.

i just washed the last dish and there is a game of back gammon waiting for me.
it’s 5 o’clock and we can still play by daylight!
spring is coming.

A Cozy Weekend

well it seems as if we are all wearing our stay at home weekend well.
everyone is on the mend and feeling like their old selves again.
the last few days have been full of playing games, hot baths, making music, watching, finishing up knitting projects, reading library books and lots of baking including homemade pita bread and a birthday carrot cake for hannah (both from 3191).

and there are still 2 more days left of the weekend!

A Game Party

on sunday hannah celebrated her 11th birthday with friends for a game party.

we had 3 stations set up with different board games and card games.
there was jenga, skip bo, milles bournes, boggle, mastermind, battleship, sorry, scribblish, wildcraft and blink among others.
there were peanuts and pretzels on each table for snacking and for lunch hannah chose BLTs, potato chips and chocolate milk.
instead of cake (or pie in hannah’s case) she wanted fruit dipped in chocolate fondue which is always a big hit.

i like to stick to a budget with parties so we use what is on hand for decorations. we had a deck of cards that was short a few so we used them to adorn the goodie bags and hang from a paper chain made by hannah.

a few years back i had sewn a paper banner spelling out the girl’s names to hang in honor of their birthdays. i pull it out each year along with simple little paper “happy birthday” flags that i made to make things a bit more festive. i have quite a collection of favorite seasonal cards that i have saved over the years. they make great little pieces of artwork to slip into chris’s card/photo holders for different holidays and celebrations.
the only other thing needed is a bouquet or two and it feels like a party!

the goodie bags included a pad of paper for score keeping, a deck of cards, a pair of dice and some chocolates all of which cost about 2 dollars per bag.

we have on occasion held parties at the bowling alley and roller rink. but most years we celebrate with good old fashioned house parties.
sometimes i worry that attendees might get a bit bored.

but as i was walking in with a BLT and chips to be served i heard someone exclaim “hannah you always have the best parties!”

and really all we did was open up the game cabinet.

pancakes and pjs is what norah suggested for a birthday party this year.
hannah and her friend were the waitresses and took orders for different shaped pancakes and toppings.

it was norah’s star birthday this year.
7 years old on the 7th.
happy birthday to my spunky girl who embraces life at it’s fullest each and every day.
life is so much more fun with you in it.

when i was a farm apprentice many moons ago i worked with someone who had previously worked as a baker.
throughout the season we would bake all sorts of things together including all of the recipes from his bakery.
i left that year with a stack of papers with those recipes doodled all over them and somehow they got lost in the shuffle.

a few years ago i unearthed those recipes and neatly wrote them all down.
when i stumbled upon the poppy seed cake, i made it right away.
i love how simple it is and it is so deliciously moist.

i made this cake in the spring for one of our potluck lunches at the farm.
the farmers loved it and now request it for all birthday celebrations.
yesterday i made it for sebastian who told me it reminds him of a poppy seed cake he grew up eating in germany.
happy birthday seb!

poppy seed cake

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil (i use canola or coconut)
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup poppy seeds
1 cup sliced almonds

Mix wet with dry and pour into greased and floured bundt pan. bake 50 minutes. sprinkle with confectioners sugar.