The boys are 2 days shy of one year apart. They had a double birthday party on Sunday afternoon. Zaire was celebrating his first birthday, and Malcolm his second. Auntie Lovana planned and executed the whole thing. She chose the theme “construction.” Yellow, orange and black were the colors she chose. Even the boys were dressed as construction workers in their Carhart overalls and hats.
She had a huge banner made and there were bouquets and balloons everywhere.
The child-sized picnic table was turned into a kinetic sand play station.
We had burgers, hot dogs and shrimp.
Of course there were lots of side dishes and chips to go along with the main course. To follow the construction theme, little signs were put into the various bowls. The chalkboard sign was changed from Grandma’s party to say “Happy Birthday” and a truck was drawn on it.
The boys had so much fun, but Zai was not loving the fire on top of the cake. There were 2 cakes, and they each got to blow out candles, with help, of course.
Both boys got so many nice gifts. Many of them were cars and trucks along with so many fun toys and other things. Malcolm had to take his bulldozer to bed that night. It was a long, but super fun day for us all!
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.
This week, I was able to cook some really delicious meals. For one, I was able to make strawberry spinach salad twice, using the small handful of berries that ripened, along with the garden spinach. I have picked the outer leaves of the spinach 3 times, and we have consumed every single leaf. The bushes look decimated, but there are a few more leaves trying to grow yet again, so I gave them a shot of fertilizer and am hoping for at least one more picking before they go to seed.
Most of the meals this past week were based on one of the 10-lb bags of chicken Rob found last week. It was $2.90 for the entire bag. We had barbecued chicken. The drumsticks were marinated in teriyaki sauce. The thighs were bbq’d with seasoning salt and purposed into various meals, such as salads, sandwiches, pieces of chicken on a plate, etc. We also used a jar of our home-canned tuna in some meals, had lots of salads and veggies, and ate popcorn for several snacks.
Rob continues to eat veggies for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I was delighted to pick more pac choi for him to stir-fry up for his breakfast scramble. I also picked quite a few more snow peas and lots of cilantro. We continue to buy other vegetables for him to eat. His weight is slowly creeping downward again–success!
I made a casserole with ham and broccoli. I got the recipe from a magazine. It’s not a favorite and I’m not sure why. But, there it sits in the fridge! The simple chocolate cornstarch pudding, on the other hand, is almost gone even though I made a double batch. One way we’ve been using part of that is in popsicles. Patsy is really enjoying the home-made fudge pops, as a change from her usual pear/raspberry popsicles that she eats by the handful.
Several of the nieces and nephews have birthdays at this time of year. We generally have one big party for all the cousins at once that have birthdays near one another.
This year is different, so we just celebrated Michaela, her sister, Caitlyn, and Patsy yesterday at a small party, with only the ones attending who have been in close contact the whole pandemic. I made a chocolate bundt cake for Patsy’s cake, Caitlyn got an ice cream cake, and Michaela had a white cake with white frosting and white filling with a picture of the Lion King on top for hers. It was so nice to be able to celebrate with the kids! (Patsy’s birthday is not for another week, but the other 2 girls has theirs this week).
I helped Rob fix a broken sprinkler in our watering system. He provided the know-how, bought the part, started the job and instructed me on how to crawl around down on the lawn and hook it up and set it! I’m so happy to have it fixed, and I love having a system to water for us without moving sprinklers. It cost much less to do it ourselves, but I would not have had the courage to do it without his excellent instructions, since I’m not mechanical.
I continued to weed and hoe in the garden. I’ve harvested what was ready and planted a few more seedlings in any extra space I can find. I put in a 25c packet of spinach seeds. It may be too late to get much from them, but it was worth a quarter to me to try.
We’ve given the front yard some attention, but more is needed to get it whipped into shape. I hope to get to some of that this coming week.
I spent a morning organizing Patsy’s school books from last year, and I listed them on e-bay and sold most of them yesterday. That money, after fees, will go straight into the bank since I’ve already purchased her new schoolwork. I spent some time organizing the new year’s work, and she has done 2 day’s worth of it, so she’s off to a good start. We will not do school every day since there is so much outside work to do, but will do some when there is time.
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:)
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,
–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?