Category Archives: Birthdays

Thriving In My Thrifty 2 Weeks, and Why Rob’s Been Running Red Lights–July 5, 2021

We have had a crazy 2 weeks since I last posted. I know we seem very busy most of the time, but these 2 weeks were amazingly full of activity.

We planned and carried out a 4th of July party, combined with 3 birthdays. Rob’s mom and my mom both share the same birthday. One grandma is 89 and the other 80. Our grandson has his birthday the very next day and he is 1. These birthdays are all close enough to each other and the 4th to celebrate them all on the same day. So we had the “2 Grandmas and a Baby, 4th of July Birthday Bash.” We set up the back yard for lots of people. There were lawn chairs under the awning, along with a table full of desserts, drink coolers full of lemonade and water along the bench, along with sodas. All of the food was inside of the house and there were several places to sit for those who didn’t want to be outside in the near-90-degree heat.

We were delighted that some of Rob’s relatives were able to come from a great distance to help celebrate, along with all the people who live nearer. It was a huge success. People were ready to see one another after being apart for so long.

The baby scarfed his cupcake in a most satisfying manner. The grandmas ate their dessert more politely, although we all decided that they could eat it any way they wanted, due to their advanced age:). I made them each a cheesecake in my Instant Pot to put their candle on and we decorated them with berries from my garden. There were also some great brownies that showed up, along with some cinnamon rolls and the tasty cupcakes, so there was plenty for all.

I made 4th of July Krispie treats, but all my houseguests, niece and nephew and Rob, Patsy and I ate them all up before the party even started. Oops.

Rob BBQ’d teriyaki chicken breast, a huge trout he caught recently, shrimp skewers, hamburgers and hot dogs. Many, many pot luck side dishes, drinks and desserts were brought. I made coleslaw from a huge cabbage I grew, lettuce salad, mixed veggies with rosemary, olive oil and other spices cooked on the grill by Rob. I had a huge tub of ice cream as well to fill in the cracks.

Although it wasn’t my most inexpensive grocery shopping week, by far, I was able to use a $10 off $50 coupon as well as many good digitally downloaded coupons at Safeway. I was also able to use things like ice cream previously purchased for only $3 for a huge tub, my garden produce, meat purchased on sale, shrimp bought for only $3/lb a couple of months ago, and the trout Rob caught to keep the cost down.

Rob’s been wanting to sand and paint the deck for several years, but he wasn’t up to it until this summer. It was peeling badly and got very slick when wet. We rented a sander ahead of time for last Monday. Then it got hot. We broke the all-time record for heat in our city and reached 117 degrees here in Salem, Oregon. One day was 114. Several other days it “only” reached 104 or so. At this point it was too late to cancel without losing our money, so…..we carried on.

Rob worked early and late, trying to prep the deck before sanding. Then we all helped as he sanded on that blistering Monday morning. We were pretty quick with Rob running the sander and Patsy and I sweeping and holding the cord out of the way. He then painted it with 2 coats of textured deck paint over the next couple of days. There’s a little bit of hand painting to do still, and the bench needs painting, but what he did looks great!

In the meanwhile, the girls and baby moved in with us for the duration of the heat wave, since they don’t have air conditioning. Rob and I cooked like maniacs the day before they came, to have food that could be eaten cold or warmed in the microwave. The plan worked great until we lost power one evening. That night, we ate ice cream for dinner. It worked for me:).

After the heat wave broke, they went home. We spent one morning at their house chopping, trimming, clipping, weeding and so forth in their front yard. It was extremely overgrown and they asked for help trimming it up. I was sore after that! You’d think I do enough yard work that I wouldn’t have been, but I guess all that chopping used different muscles than hoeing.

I weeded and hoed for a bit each evening in my garden and yard, except a couple times that were just too hot. Today, my sister came and helped me weed for a couple of hours. Little by little, the job is getting done. The “problem” is that the warm nights and watering I’m doing are causing the weeds to grow super fast. I can hardly keep up. The good news is that the vegetables are, too. The heat ruined my peas, some lettuce, some spinach, and some snow peas. It annihilated most of my blackberries and burned many raspberries and blueberries. It encouraged some other veggies, though, and I have a few ripe tomatoes, zucchini and other things coming right along.

And, about those red lights…..

The 4th of July, the day of the party, we felt confident that we would be able to go to church, come home in plenty of time to do the last minute things for the party, and have a pretty relaxing day with all the relatives who were coming. About 6 am, we received a frantic call that our daughter was in labor. Rob rushed over there, collected our grandson, and took our 2 daughters to the hospital, one to deliver a baby and one to support her sister. She felt she needed to get there fast, and she kept saying, “Dad, just run that red light. Hurry. Just run that red light!” Thankfully, there wasn’t much traffic at that time on a Sunday/holiday, so he did. He dropped the girls off at the birthing center and brought Malcolm home to me and we figured we had a little time to calm ourselves down. Nope.

By 8:05 we had a new, precious grandson, delivered by emergency c-section. I rushed over to the hospital, my sister rushed to our house to help Rob with both the party and our grandson, and the day became a little more exciting by the minute. His name is Zaire. He was 7 lbs., 4 ounces and 21-1/2 inches long.

We’ve been enjoying having a little one around the house the past couple of days. He’s keeps us hopping. I am happy to help in that way.. Only one person is allowed at the hospital once they move the new mom to a room, and her sister is that person, so I’m just thankful I got there before they moved her out of the labor and delivery area. They will likely discharge her tomorrow, and I plan to hold new baby again then. I need to be here with big brother right now anyway.

I doubt our lives will become boring any time soon. With 2 babies exactly 1 year apart, I have a feeling I will be able to spend time with kids any time I feel lonely in the least, and likely some times when I’m not lonely at all:). I feel very blessed to be surrounded by all of these healthy, happy kids. They say it keeps you young to spend lots of time with young people. Maybe someone should start sewing me a baby blanket……

Thriving In My thrifty Week–June 8, 2020

My sister and niece, Michaela, u-picked some strawberries for us and drove them by as a very nice surprise. Rob and I had just been discussing whether or not our patch at our house would yield enough for all the jam we wanted to make, and we had just decided to go pick a few, so it was a very timely gift!

I used all the little odds and ends from our patch, plus some I froze, plus the ones they brought and made 18 jars of jam.

My friend, Jeannie, sent me some Tattler, reusable, canning jar lids. Because I’ve never used them before, I used one in this batch. I followed her instructions, did not tighten the ring very tight, and as far as I can tell, it sealed nicely. I only did one jar in case I got it wrong, but it worked! I appreciate her thoughtfulness, as I don’t think I would have had the courage to try these without her encouragement.

She also sent Rob some seeds for various greens she saved from her garden. He chose a few and already has little babies sprouting in the greenhouse to plant out when space frees up in the garden. He’s excited to see what grows.

I am picking a small bowl full of berries every few days from our patch. We are eating those fresh, and I’ve been freezing a few here and there. It’s very easy to just add to a bag of berries until it is full, and transfer it to the big freezer so not a berry gets wasted. We use the frozen strawberries for smoothies during the winter.

I picked raspberries, strawberries, green onions, lettuce, snow peas, cabbage, boc choi, cilantro, and thinned out a few collard green plants from my very small planting. That is a new vegetable for us, and it seemed a bit tough in Rob’s stir-fry. I’m going to do some research and see if I need to cook it differently.

Patsy had her 16th birthday yesterday. She felt very spoiled as 3 different groups brought her treats, flowers, and gifts and left them on our doorstep. I made a chocolate cake and thankfully we let her start it Saturday night, since another friend brought a cake and ice cream over on Sunday. She and Rob drove out for a Little Caesar’s pizza Saturday and I made tacos on Sunday.

Rob made her a jewelry box. The brave man also did the ear piercing she asked for by ordering an ear-piercing gun off the internet and doing the job. He’s much, much braver than I am, but it was the only way we felt comfortable granting her birthday request so we had to get what we are calling “Covid Creative.”

Now she’s got that little second earring right above the one she got when she was very, very young. It’s what she has been wanting for the last several months for this birthday, so….whew–he found a way.

Of course, he had to play a trick on her first. He made a very crude jewelry box with garish paintings on the top and a necklace made from a rusty chain and a wood disk with her name and other words on it and wrapped it elaborately. When she opened it, he told her she had asked for jewelry and a jewelry box. Then, he gave her the real gift which was out on the porch. She about died laughing.

I do think we are making memories that will last far beyond Covid19. It’s different. That’s for sure. But, at least she will have a story to tell her whole life long, about these unusual, strange, but sometimes wonderful, times.

Thriving In My thrifty Week–January 13, 2020–Chewbacca Came To Visit Jake and I cooked!

It was Jake’s birthday this week. Chewbaca came to Family Sunday Dinner to see him. The Millennium Falcon apparently dropped him off so he could visit Jake during his birthday lunch. Jake was surprised and pleased, but later confided to me that “there was a guy in there, auntie!” Good to know, I said:)

A few family photos were taken.

Everyone had fun! There were quite a few other family members present, and we thoroughly celebrated Rob, Alissa and Jake’s birthdays.

I managed to save quite a bit of money during the week in the food department. I had several meals I wanted to cook for friends and family who had various needs, such as recovery from surgery, sickness, etc. I also had a lunch to pack to share when I went visiting another family and food to make for our meals, too, of course. It was a busy week, I’m telling you!

First, I did a large (for me) grocery shop at Safeway, using a $10/off $50. I purchased more than $50 worth, but it was still nice to have that discount. I used several coupons that I downloaded, one I picked up in the store, and 4 Ibotta rebates, which gained me a $5 Ibotta bonus.

We cooked both a large turkey and a ham this week. They were bought on great sales over the holidays and pulled from the freezers for this super busy week. I boiled the bones from both of them. All of the turkey broth, 2 big kettles of it and a 3rd small one, was used up in 3 large batches of turkey soup.

Several pans of turkey enchiladas were made. When I found a large baggie of frozen corn tortillas leftover from Christmas, I thawed them out and used them up on this project.

I sliced turkey breast very thinly for sandwiches, and turkey pieces were given to some of the families. I made sandwiches with turkey and some 99c/day-old-bread-rack buns when I took the picnic, along with some carrots and cupcakes.

Patsy made a double batch of lemon poppy seed muffins. I made a double batch of pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins, and most of those went out with various meals.

A while back, I was given a bag of white rice. While we love it, we don’t eat it often, as Rob is dieting and I’m diabetic. So, I took the opportunity to made up a huge batch of fried rice with some of it. I added grated carrot, peas, scrambled eggs, onion, some water chestnuts and 1 can of bamboo shoots that I’ve had for quite some time. I seasoned with soy sauce, and made enough for 2 families to have some, and kept a small bowl for us, since we love it so much!

I sliced up ham for one family to go with their fried rice. We ate ham in several ways this week.

Salads were made and shared and also eaten here. Rob eats a lot of salad! A huge chocolate cake was baked for the birthday party on Sunday. I also did some white cupcakes from a boxed mix, which I divided between the birthday party and one family.

The amazing thing is that cooking all this food was not a huge drain on my budget because I chose foods we had in the pantry and freezer to base the meals on, with some additions from the store. Sharing food is one of my favorite things to do and I am always happy when I can make it work as nicely as it did this time. It was a fun, rewarding week, though I must confess that all that cooking made it a busy one!

Now that people are feeling better from their various surgeries and other things, my cooking frenzy is over. It was kind of funny how it all came at once, but that’s how life goes sometimes. This week, I’ll put my energies in other directions, and that’s ok, too. I like variety in my life:)

Thriving In My thrifty Week–June 16, 2019

Happy birthday, Danait! And Ja’Ana. And Patsy. And Abbie……It’s been a packed 8 days:). Yesterday was Danait’s birthday party. Her mama cooked tons of delicious African food, a cake was purchased, and there were plenty of family and friends to celebrate with her. I’m super pleased with the little outfit I sewed for her. It fits beautifully, and the top was made from a scrap of eyelet fabric, some white cotton, and some scraps of lace.

I used a pattern I’ve had for years and years and modified it to suit my scraps. So, I paid absolutely nothing out of pocket for this outfit, but made up for it in time:). We added a few inexpensive toys from the Dollar Store, such as a coloring book and some crayons I bought last summer, and so forth.

Our family and my sister were in charge of a few simple games. Patsy led them in such games as:

carry the gummy bear in a plastic spoon relay,

bubbles,

–carry the paper cup full of water up to Rob and no worries if you spill it on him when you are putting it into the container,

and throw the plastic frog at the ring.

Then my sister, Rosalie, dumped a bag of prizes on the ground and let them each pick one. There were a few younger siblings running around, too, and they all got things, too. These were all Dollar Store prizes, and they all got a bottle of bubbles, but it was amazing how long they all played with their inexpensive toys. It was good to see them having so much fun.

It was very simple but it was amazing how much fun they all had between the food, simple games, and playground equipment.

Pretty soon, the coffee was made and passed around for all the adults. Popcorn was brought out for all to enjoy.

With that nice shot of caffeine, we were able to finish and clean up a bit. When our family finally left at around 4, several others were still enjoying the party–no one wanted to leave–it was that nice of a party, but we had things we needed to do at home, so we reluctantly left.

I enjoyed meeting several new people, and loved the hospitality that is always shown by that crew. Coffee, cake and popcorn were offered to any and all who walked by at the park and a surprising number of people accepted. There was a man and his wife who actually sat down and joined the party for a while. I have met and enjoyed the wives of a few of the dads who brought their kids to the party on other occasions, but it was nice for both Rob and myself to visit with the dads.

I did a few other things other than plan games and go to the party. I took my son Anthony and Allison to the zoo, using my zoo pass. Patsy went too, as it was her idea. They had a great time as neither had been there for a long time. I packed food and water and I told them to bring their own money if they wanted souvenirs, so it was very frugal for me.

I’ve been picking raspberries and strawberries, artichokes and a head of lettuce that grew volunteer by the compost heap. My aunt gave me some lettuce she grew. I harvested my first snow peas yesterday. I weeded and hoed several times, mostly in the evenings or early mornings as it was very hot for a couple of days.

The scale is starting to move in the right direction for Rob again, after a plateau. The doctor put him down to 1000 calories per day–yikes!–but it’s starting to work. He’s been working hard at this for over a year now, and is very close to being 100 pounds less than he was a year ago. He’s going to have to break down and get some new clothes.

I bought loss leaders at the grocery store this week. We grabbed the mayonnaise for $1.49/jar, the baked beans for $.99/big can and got several of each. We got a few other groceries, but are not shopping much this month. I have several frozen items I want to finish up before the new crop gets ready in the garden and fields, so we are targeting those foods. I’ve been making lots of zucchini bread, for example, from frozen zucchini. Since we are not eating a lot around here, that keeps the need for groceries low as well, other than produce.

It was a good week, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Still, I’m looking forward to a calmer week ahead. How about you?

thriving In My Thrifty Week–April 1, 2109

This week was all about family, friends and the beautiful Oregon coast. We spent quite a bit of time traveling back and forth, getting kids where they needed to be, and visiting, but in-between those drives, we had a lot of frugal fun. In truth, we even enjoyed the drives. The weather was mild and the spring flowers were blooming, the trees were budding, the grass was spring-green, and there were many days with blue skies and puffy clouds to look at as we travelled.

We camped for a few days last week with Patsy. We came home so she could go on her youth group service project trip. Rob and I went back to the beach for 2 nights alone. We came back on Tuesday to pick Patsy up and to get Lovana who had been picked up at the airport by friends and was spending time with them. We took both girls back down to the beach and loved having a few days to really get caught up with Lovana. Then, we came home and she went off with friends for a night, other friends for dinner the next day…..you get the idea! Sunday was her birthday, so we had a big party for her with both friends and family.

We enjoyed days of gorgeous sunshine, and days of steady, pouring rain. We stayed in the camper and at the campsite most of the time we were down at the beach. We didn’t go clamming, fishing or crabbing this trip. Instead, we rested and I sewed and read lots of books. We ate out one night when Rob and I were having our 2-night get-away. We went to a restaurant and ate seafood while enjoying some live music. We cooked the rest of the meals in the camper or packed them for the car rides. I enjoyed several nice walks on the beach. I even found a heart-shaped fossil in a rock!

Patsy had really been wanting to fly a kite. Rob dug out the kites we’ve had for over 30 years and took her to a beach with easy access for him so she could fly one. They broke a dowel (go figure–it was very old) and then they went to the hardware store and got a new one and Rob fixed the kite for a little over a dollar.

I did several things to make Lovana’s birthday special and not too stressful for me. First, when we came back home to collect children on Tuesday, I sent Rob to pick her up at our friends’ house, and I stayed back at our house and cleaned. Then, it stayed clean because no one was home:) On Friday, we put all the camping paraphernalia away, so on Saturday, I could concentrate on cooking.

She wanted an apron for her birthday. I made a couple of them in the camper, after she got there, so they would be the way she wanted them. I got the coffee fabric for the pockets from apron #1 at a yard sale. It was a scrap and I paid either 25 or 50 c for it. I was happy to get it, since she wants the aprons to wear in her work at the 2 coffee shops she works at on Maui. I used some fabric I’ve had for years for the base of both aprons. For the rest of her gift, Rob is taking her to Trader Joe’s for some food items she can’t get for a reasonable price over there in Hawaii. Food in general is very expensive over there, but some things are SUPER expensive. She brought an extra suitcase to fill with things from here.

We had several of our kids at the party, plus aunties and uncles, a family of friends and cousins. We ended up with a lot of people, and I was delighted that it was a nice day, so quite a few people could overflow outside. Our oldest daughter and her husband made it, as did Ja’Ana, who moved out a few weeks ago. All of the relatives who were on vacation made it as well, even my sister and Jake, who got bumped from their airplane ride back from vacation Saturday night and stayed an extra night in LA. Rob picked up the crew that returned at the airport Saturday night, but Ron and Michaela had to go pick Gail and Jake up Sunday morning, and they got here for the end of lunch. It was good that Rob put a little chicken and salmon in the cupboard for them–this crew was hungry! (I was like, “Why are you putting that plate of food in the cupboard, Rob?” —but he was so right! It was needed for them!) I made rice salad, green beans (home-canned), home-frozen corn, twice baked-potato casserole, one of my sisters brought broccoli salad, Rob did chicken and salmon on the BBQ, and I made mixed fruit crisp and chocolate birthday cake. Rob went out and bought some rolls from the bread outlet store yesterday and I chose not to shop at all. I simply ran out of time. I mowed the lawn instead, and we made out fine! I put out some seltzers that were in the garage, Rob found 2 bottles of soda pop out there behind some stuff and put those out, and I made lemonade from lemon juice from a bottle. None of it was fancy, but they ate and ate! There was plenty, but not a lot left over. At all!

I picked flowers from the yard to put on the table. The house was pretty full, so they kept getting moved around, out of the way of people’s elbows. I think I will enjoy them more this week when they are not in danger of getting knocked over!

One of our friends who came to the party asked me if I used 1-1 flour, and did I want some. Of course I did!!!! He actually had it in the car, and shortly walked in the house with 25 lbs!!! I thanked him profusely, and let him know I would be sharing some of it, which he was happy for me to do. It was given to him, and he doesn’t use it enough to finish off a bag that size, so I was the lucky recipient!

Lovana flies back to Hawaii Monday afternoon, and then our lives will return to routine. It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve enjoyed the week tremendously.


Thriving In My Thrifty Week–January 7, 2018

Rob was able to get these clamps very inexpensively using a coupon from Ace Hardware combined with a sale. He was mailed the coupon because he has a birthday in the month of January. I think in the end, the price tag was about $5 for both.

Patsy took this picture on New Year’s Day. Its a view of the Willamette River, from my sister’s deck. She especially loved that she got the cat in there. I love how it shows how very frosty and cold that morning was! We get a lot of enjoyment from the river.

Today, at church, my aunt noticed a bin of potatoes and celery that were for people to take. She got me one of each, since she didn’t need them and I looked after second service and there were some left, so I grabbed another one of each. The potatoes need to be used quickly. How handy! I just finished turning the ones I had at home that were sprouting just like these into potato salad!

We had a family birthday party scheduled for today. Unfortunately, we had to cancel as the birthday boy (Jake) was sick. (The birthday young lady (Alissa) and the birthday man (Rob) were not, but they will have to patiently wait for the reschedule date!). Thankfully, we were able to parcel out the enormous bowl of potato salad amongst the relatives anyway!

Rob and Alissa have not missed one year of celebrating together in all of her 18 years. Of course, Jake joined in when he was a baby, sitting on a table at Chuck-E-Cheese in his carrier. What a birthday surprise that was for Rob and all of us! So many memories of birthday parties in many places with many themes……. One of the best was when my sister put on a “Beauty and the Beast” birthday party with all girly things and a princess at one end of the cake for Alissa and the Beast on the other end, for Rob. I can’t believe she’s 18! But, she is. It’s been amazing to see that little, cute, curly-headed blond baby become a strong, confident young lady in what felt like a blink of an eye.

One of my Christmas gifts was a little planter with some seeds to grow basil on the windowsill. There were extra seeds so I used the container that my Christmas poinsettia was in, filled with new potting soil. Since the flower died because I think it got too hot near the wood stove where it was, I was glad to repurpose the pot and use all the seeds up, and hopefully, I will have basil in 2 pots.

I’ve been sorting through my seeds and hope to get my order finished up soon. I have quite a few 1/2 packets left from last year.

Birthday Party #4 –June, 2018

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Happy 4th birthday, Danait!

Danait’s birthday party went very well.  Harnet, her mother, had asked Rob to barbecue months ago, and so of course, he agreed.

We picked up Jake and Alissa, who agreed to help, bright and early this morning, and headed up to the park where a covered area had been reserved.  We set up while my sister Rosalie took Jake and went for balloons and the cake.  It was fun for Patsy and Alissa to be handed a bag full of “Frozen” themed decorations, and get to put them up any way they wanted.  A friend had made a poster of Danait since birth, which really added to the decorations.

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They did a great job, and there were decorations all over the place.

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Several families arrived, and soon everyone was feasting on hamburgers, hot dogs, injera bread, lentils, Coalwa (beef), chicken in beriberi sauce, vegetables, potato salad, and fruit.  Harnet had been cooking up a storm.  The kids played and played on the equipment, and with bubbles Patsy patiently blew and blew and blew and blew.  Rob barbequed the meat.  I noticed that some of the parents could not get enough of the African food.  It was a new, very delicious treat for them.  Of course, the American food went down well, too, especially the hot dogs with this crew.

 

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There was a really cool “Star Wars” themed party near us on the lawn.  It was so cool, that Jake joined it.  I went to fetch him back to the “Frozen” party, and he told me the people said he could stay.  They were very welcoming to him, and indeed had said he could stay, but I pulled him away after a few minutes, and we went back to our own party.

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The kids weren’t too excited about eating.  Playing was more fun!

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Pretty soon, it was cake time.

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Alissa was such a big help with everything!

Jake and the other kids ate some cake, the presents were opened, and they went off to play again. Jake joined the Star Wars crew again.  I wouldn’t let him stay over there for very long during the time, since we didn’t even know the people AT ALL, but he came back pretty soon on his own to sadly tell me that Darth Vader floated away.  It was a balloon and we explained that all the kids hitting the balloons with the pool-noodle foam light sabers were supposed to get rid of Darth Vader!  It was a very clever idea where they had staked out many white (storm trooper) balloons, and 1 Darth Vader balloon, and let the kids hit the tar out of those “bad guys” until they were gone!

Families started leaving, and as I was cleaning up, Jake re-appeared wearing a mask, holding a foam light saber, and clutching a goodie bag from the Star Wars party.    I went and thanked them for their kindness, and they said, “Well, he’s a boy, and it was “Frozen” or “Star Wars” and we don’t blame him for choosing Star Wars!  They were so kind and gracious.  I’m grateful to them for that.  He had a great day, because he got to have some fun there, as well as the party cake, candy, and company at Danait’s party.  It is a big deal for him to get an invitation in the mail for any party.

Soon after transporting the remaining items back to Harnet’s house, we took our crew and headed back towards home. We stopped off at a double graduation party–2 sisters from church–one graduating from college and one from high school.  It was really a nice party and we ended up staying for and hour and a half.  Then, home to collapse.  Tomorrow, we will serve leftovers.

At last communication with my die-hard sister who was still there, more people had shown up at Harnet’s house and she was pulling out more food and the fun was continuing!  I’ll bet none of us are too full of pep tomorrow, but we had a good day, and it was worth it to see a little girl who was so happy.

 

 

Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Loaf Cake

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I’ve been asked for the recipe for the cake I made for my sister’s birthday last week.  It’s a recipe from an old cookbook that I altered to make gluten-free.  Here’s what I did:

1-1/2 cup butter

3 cups sugar

5 eggs

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill 1-1 gluten-free flour (this blend includes xanthum gum)

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

chocolate chips to sprinkle on top (I think I used about 1 cup)

Soften the butter.  Cream butter and sugar, add eggs.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the chocolate chips and mix well.  (I did all of this in a bowl, with a spoon, but I’m sure a mixer could be used.)  Divide the mixture between 3 loaf pans that have been sprayed with non-stick spray.  (I’ve done it in 2 large loaf pans, or 3 slightly smaller ones, and feel it cooks better in the 3 slightly smaller ones.  I also made cupcakes from this recipe last spring–just cook for less time and leave the chocolate chips off or stir them in)  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the loaf cakes and bake them in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour-1 hour and 10 minutes or until firmed up and done in the center.  (The trick here is to get the center to cook without getting the edges too crisp or even burnt.)  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out of the pans and finish cooling.  Makes 2 large loaves or 3 smaller ones.

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There are several things I like about this recipe.  First, it does not need frosting, so it is easy to transport. Second, it can be divided into the individual loaves so I can make a batch, use one loaf and freeze the rest for another day, which is a time-saver for me.  Third, it is gluten-free and tastes really good!  It can be “dressed up” for a party, or used for lunches.

If you don’t need to make gluten-free cake, it works well with regular flour.  I used to make it that way, years ago.  It is basically a chocolate pound cake with chocolate chips sprinkled on top.  When I modified the recipe, I did add more cocoa powder than the original recipe, because……chocolate cake, chocolate chips, chocolate candy bars….need I say more?  Enjoy!

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BBQ and Sugar Donut Birthday Party

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Birthday party #2 for the week was a huge success, thanks to the help of the aunties, uncles, parents, and cousins!  Whew!  This party was for Ja’Ana’s 17th birthday, and she really wanted fresh donuts–the raised kind with sugar on them that only Auntie Rosalie can make the way J wanted them.

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The decorations were very simple.  Ja’Ana chose gold stars, a garland, gold paper plates and 1 black and 1 white plastic tablecloth from a party store so she could have the theme she wanted.    The rest of the decor and paperware were gathered from less expensive sources.  The plastic silverware was from Winco, the cups and napkins were free from some we had been given a while back.  The invitations, plastic ice cream bowls, and gold ribbon to curl onto the table were from the Dollar Store.

We have an outdoor covered porch next to our deck and the weather cooperated so we could have the entire party outside.

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This isn’t the best picture, but it gives the idea–drinks on a tiny picnic table on the right, and food on the big table which was on the grass next to the concrete–just in case the grass was too wet.  There was some ice in the cooler, which they used as the afternoon wore on and the drinks were getting warm.  I might get a bowl and some tongs next time.  It was a little awkward getting the ice out of the bag out of the cooler……you get the idea.

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Rob barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken drumsticks.

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Rob, and 2 nephews, Jake and Steven, lit a fire in the portable fire pit.  Ja’Ana thought some might want to roast marshmallows, but no one roasted even one.  We had an abundance of food, and they filled up on other things.  No worries, we’ll take the marshmallows camping.  Jake looks worried, but he was actually proud of himself for being part of that project!  We all enjoyed the time with Steven.  As these kids get older and older, it’s harder to find the time to be with them, so we were thankful for his presence today.

We kept the food simple, inexpensive and tasty.  We have hamburger from the 1/2 beef we purchased last fall.  I got hot dogs for 68c/package and buns for 88c/package.  We also had chicken drumsticks, and I bought about $5-6 worth–a big package.  I made home-made potato salad, which is always a money saver.  I picked lettuce for the burger toppings, added an onion and sliced tomatoes from the store.  One of my sisters put together a veggie tray using snow peas from the garden, and some veggies from the store, such as carrot sticks and celery.  I’ve been buying and stashing $1/2-litre bottles of soda and $1.88/package chips for a few weeks.  I got some of those things during the Memorial Day sales and hid them in the camper.  My other sister graciously brought all the donut-making items, including dough, oil and fryer.  I also made a big nacho dip using refried beans I made and froze last week, and put out corn chips that I had packaged into Ziplocks after buying the huge Costco bag for under $5 a few weeks ago.  Putting them in the gallon bags keeps them fresh.  We used the last 2 bags (probably about $2 worth).  I got bulk candy from Winco to scatter around to make the tables more festive.

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And then, the extremely popular donut crew!   Auntie Rosalie and Auntie Jan were the donut makers.  One girl confessed as she was leaving that those were the best donuts she had ever tasted, and she had eaten 3.

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Auntie Gail passed them around.  Michaela (her daughter) and Ron (her husband) stopped by for a bit on their way to the horse ranch where Michaela volunteers.  We enjoyed seeing them, too.  Alissa and Jake both stayed for the entire party.

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There was another girl who does not show in this picture.  In my mind, the perfect number showed up–enough to have a great time, eat a bunch of food, and to easily fit in our yard and deck.  One of Ja’Ana’s friends from before we moved drove clear down here to join the party, and made Ja’Ana feel very special and loved.  The new friends were very kind and gracious and made her feel welcome–they are a lovely bunch of girls.

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And, the relatives.  What a blessing they are to us.  So supportive, generous and kind.  I’m very thankful for their part in making J’s birthday so special.  And, I’ll have to say, we had a very nice time visiting with each other during the several hours we had together.  It feels good to put my feet up tonight.  This has been a busy week.  Now I can bask in the memories and the feeling of a successful week of birthdays:)

 

 

 

 

Double Birthday at the Zoo

 

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Today, there were 2 birthday girls celebrating at the Oregon Zoo in Portland,Oregon.  Both Ja’Ana and our little friend, Danait had their birthdays today.  J is 17, and Danait is 3.  We decided to have a celebration together and chose the zoo for the big day.  My sister, Rosalie, Danait’s mother, Harnet, Alissa and myself all went along.

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After several great sunshiny days, the weather man began to predict that today would include heavy rain, up to 45 mile per hour winds gusts, and cool temperatures.  Rosalie and I debated the issue and decided that we needed to go anyway, even if we didn’t stay too long.  When a little 3 year-old is promised animals, she needs to have animals.  The big girls would have done something else without blinking an eye, but cheerfully agreed to give it a try.  Our plan was to dart from covered area to covered area, dodging the raindrops in-between and holding big umbrellas over our heads when needed.  We did decide not to pack a picnic as planned, but instead to buy lunch at the little cafe, where we would be assured of a roof over our heads while we ate.

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We had a blast!  The rain held off until we were eating, praise the Lord!  We chased after a very excited little girl, who was enthusiastic, to put it mildly, to see all of the animals, but especially the monkeys.

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She loved climbing on this toy, as long as Alissa helped her stay on.

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Harnet sure appreciated how much the big girls helped chase little Danait around.  That child is quick.  She reminds me so much of Ja’Ana when she was little.  Harnet is so kind to the girls, always telling them how much she appreciates them playing with Danait, and how she wants Danait to grow up just like them.  What an encourager!

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They enjoyed the African exhibit a lot.  The giraffes reminded Harnet of her home in Africa, as they had them there.  The elephants and lions were also a hit, but little Danait wanted to see the monkeys the most, and watched them for a long time.  They obliged by throwing their food (some kind of leaves and fruit) around after taking a bite or two, and jumping around a bit.  So exciting!

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It was a great day and both girls had a great birthday.   It was so special that they could spend it with each other.  Little Danait loves Alissa and Ja’Ana and often says “they coming’ mama, they coming’.”  Even when they aren’t.  Then she will pout because they aren’t.  Of course, the big girls think she is adorable, and who doesn’t love to be looked up to and adored right back!  We 3 ladies had a great time visiting, laughing and watching the girls have fun.    Once it started pouring rain and the wind picked up, as the weatherman had promised, we finished our lunch and headed for our respective homes.  Both Ja’Ana and Alissa had driver’s ed drives this afternoon and evening.  Ja’Ana drove all the way there in the rain, on 2 freeways, and home again through rain, a huge traffic jam, and windy conditions.  I was so proud of how she is doing with her driving.

Rosalie went back with Harnet to her house so they could work on making appointments, and other things that needed to be done.  Sometimes Harnet has Rosalie make phone calls for her, to make sure the person on the other end understands exactly what is needed.  Her English just keeps getting better and better–I can really tell a big difference in the few months I have known her, but sometimes, she just wants a little help.   Rosalie is really good at that kind of thing.   We are already making some plans for summer.  Once we get Harnet’s school schedule, we will made another date to do something together.  It will be fun.

I’m glad we had such a fun time, because Rob and I are taking Jake, Michaela (niece and nephew), and Patsy (daughter) on Monday.  We have a zoo pass, so want to use it as much as possible.  We are planning the trips so that everyone we take will get in on the pass, so we have to take a few at a time.  The other 3 were all in school today, so were feeling left out until I explained that we would go Monday and NOT take Ja’Ana and Alissa.  Just them.  The big girls are going to the beach with the youth group on Monday anyway.  So, it’s all good.  Tomorrow is Rob’s last day of school and then he’s out for the summer!  Yea, and double yea!!!  Let summer begin!