Spring Birthday Celebration

Bethany's birthday celebration day was one of the first really lovely spring days that we've had. The skies were brilliantly blue with puffy, white clouds whooshing past, a lovely breeze, and the faint promise of warming temperatures ahead. Since she loves spring so much, I was very grateful the day was such a beautiful one!

A birthday party in the midst of illness is challenging, but we all pitched in together to make it happen. I did the easy tasks: marinating the chicken, arranging the flowers (click here for that post), and setting the table. This was a one-dish meal served in our wobbly-edged pasta bowls we love so much (click here), so we used dinner plates as chargers.




Tall goblets were for the adults and short glasses for the little ones. I kept the color palette very neutral, so the spring flowers would stand out as a bright pop of color. I assembled a vase full of the same blooms for the birthday girl to take home with her.



It felt wonderful to all be together again! Even though they don't live far away, their family went through one bout of illness after another all winter, people have traveled, and I've been sick, so it had been nearly three months since we've all been gathered at our home.



Carson and the kids were overjoyed to see each other again! I love it when kids and dogs are happily running and playing and everyone's chattering in the kitchen!

Julia and Dave did all the cooking. Bethany requested one of our family favorites, Half Baked Harvest's 20 Minute Grilled Jerk Chicken with Mango-Nectarine Salsa over Coconut Rice. It's a flavor explosion of sweet, savory, and spicy -- SO fresh! Click here for the chicken recipe. And click here for the rice recipe contained within a different chicken recipe. The rice recipe may, quite possibly, change your life!





We all feel like this is the "start of the season" for this meal. We'll enjoy it from now through the summer, and undoubtedly conclude its fresh, spring-summery goodness with it being requested for Julia's birthday celebration in September.

After dinner, it was present opening time. Bethany was thrilled with more white pieces for her kitchen from her sister.


And Dave, as a labor of love, made a "Little Free Library" for our author daughter. It was made to match their own home, and he spent many nights and weekends constructing it and cutting all the clapboards and shingles down to scale. Someday soon he will mount it in their yard, she'll register it with the "Little Free Library" (click here for more information), and she'll fill it with worthwhile books for other to enjoy.





Birthday cake time! Twenty-eight candles for our kindhearted, endlessly creative, nurturing daughter who blesses our family daily with her love and care!




If you missed the cake recipe, for our favorite, decadently rich, chocolate cake, click here.


Julia's Chocolate Cake


Whenever there's a birthday celebration in our family, I ask, "What type of cake would you like?" Honestly, asking that question is a mere matter of politeness, because we all know that the answer is a simple one -- Julia's chocolate cake. It's (just one) of her "signature recipes". And we all ask for it. Without fail. Every birthday. There are reasons for that.


Recently in our family, we were discussing the essential qualities of a good chocolate cake. First and foremost, it actually has to taste like chocolate. As obvious as that sounds, think of all the times you've eaten a flavorless chocolate cake. A good chocolate cake should not disappoint your taste buds by its flavor being overpowered by the frosting. The two should complement each other and yet hold their own -- like a good marriage. The cake should be decadently rich in chocolate flavor.



Another essential quality is that the cake be moist. As the narrow tines of your fork pierce the frosting and descend into the cake, the cake should not crumble like a sand castle poked with a stick. Rather, its rich, chocolate goodness should cling to itself and be capable of holding together all the way to your mouth.

Julia's Chocolate Cake will not disappoint! In fact, I'm pretty confident it will have your family and friends requesting it for their birthdays too! The original source of this recipe (nearly a decade ago) is unfortunately unknown to us, so if you know it, please do leave a comment and I'll happily give credit where it is due. But for now, here's the recipe for THE BEST chocolate cake:


JULIA'S CHOCOLATE CAKE

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking powder
2 t. baking soda
3/4 c. cocoa powder
2 c. sugar
1 c. canola oil
3/4 c. brewed coffee
1 1/4 c. milk
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract

Sift together dry ingredients in mixer bowl. Add oil, coffee, and milk; mix at medium speed for one minute. Add eggs and vanilla; beat 2 more minutes. (Batter will be thin.)

Pour into two, greased and floured, 9-inch round cake pans (or two, 8-in. round cake pans and six muffin cups).

Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cakes for 10 minutes before removing from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.

Frost with your favorite frosting.

Spring Flowers for a Spring Party


First off, I'd like to say a very sincere thank you for all your enthusiasm and encouraging words on my last posting! Secondly, I am immeasurably grateful to all of you who follow me on Instagram and have expressed your love and have prayed for my health. And for those of you who aren't aware of it, I have been ill since March 27th with bronchitis which turned into pneumonia. Each day I feel ever so slightly improved. We have long-standing plans to travel next week, so here's hoping I'm well enough to go.

In the midst of this illness, Bethany, our first-born and only spring baby, turned 28 years old! Spring is her favorite season -- when all the world is fresh and new, returning to life, and full of beauty.


As all the colorful spring flowers make her heart happy, I knew a vibrant and fragrant arrangement down the center of the table would put a smile on her face for her birthday celebration.

Julia did the shopping, (since I was too ill), and chose bouquets of: daffodils, grape hyacinth (purple being Bethany's favorite color), and white tulips.



I utilized a long, skinny, willow basket, some packaged moss, and a bunch of canning jars to pull the whole look together. A half-dozen, pint-size, wide-mouth jars were placed in a zigzag arrangement down the length of the basket and filled with water. (Not shown: I filled the gaps between the jars by placing half-pint canning jars upside down into the spaces to help support the moss.)


Then I cut the flower stems to length and divided them up evenly between each of the jars.






Small handfuls of moss were tucked gently around the edges and between all the flowers.




The pop of green and airy tendrils of the moss helped to provide just that organic, fresh, springtime look I was hoping for.


To recreate this look for your spring table, you will need:

- long, skinny basket

- half-pint and pint-size canning jars

- 5 to 6 bunches of springtime flowers

- pre-packaged, color-enhanced moss

- scissors

- water

Next time I write, I'll tell you all about the dinner we served and share our favorite chocolate cake recipe from the celebration!

Changing Directions

This is where I've been the last few months. Well, I've been here and completely lost in my head. So many afternoons spent this winter, cozied up by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate and reading, reading, reading. Thinking and pondering and talking it all over with family.



I’ve been immensely challenged to shake things up! I’ve done all the inward processing and I’m pushing the self-doubt behind and starting to vocalize a bit of my dreams and plans! Although I love my Etsy shop, I realize that there’s a greater WHY behind what I do...that I LOVE creating happy memories for my friends and family! Hoping to transition off of Etsy and open my own online shop by spring 2020 focused around helping people to create happy memories for the people they love!

I may be a little less present here for the rest of the year while I make this big transition. But I hope that when I do post, it will be more of what I do best and a whole lot less of whatever's on my mind that night. But mostly, I hope it's more of what you want and need!

(And don't worry, I will still be making and stocking the shop with costumes through October/November of this year.)

And in very exciting-slightly scary news(!), this Friday I’m being interviewed by Josephine Brooks, a British productivity coach, for an episode for her podcast on the topic of pivoting my business!

(P.S. You may also note a name change. When I first starting blogging years and years ago, our children were young and I wanted to protect their privacy. But now they all go by their own names online, so I'm making the switch too.)

Anniversary

Today, hubby and I celebrated 31 years of marriage! On one hand, it seemed like we were kids. And on the other hand, time just really seems to have flown. Was it really 31 years ago? 



This is part of a large family photograph. I love it because, from left to right, my parents are celebrating 56 years of marriage this year, we're celebrating 31, and his parents are celebrating 59 years!


We celebrated tonight with dinner at The Copper Door...wine, steak, truffle fries...sooo good! Lots of conversation. Lots of gratitude.




Love my Customers!

My day was made today by a lovely customer, who left the following review of the Revolutionary War Soldier Costume she purchased for her son! My customers are the BEST!


This costume is beautifully made. The fabrics are high-quality, the craftswomanship is excellent and the finishes (buttons, etc.) are high-quality. The design is expertly done to perfectly evoke the era but still be functional and play-worthy. We wanted a costume that would do all of that because our now-12yo will really use it for play and holidays. He understands what accurate period costume is, and loves this.

Kate was lovely to work with: quick, responsive, a super-capable problem solver and helped us make sure the size was right. She shipped right off, even fitting a haversack we ordered last-minute and refunding that postage. Couldn't imagine better.

I highly recommend the costume. Definitely worth the money. Compared to similar items it looks like the highest quality for similar price points.

More of those costumes coming soon to the shop!

Sold Out

The busy time of school programs is open us and the shop has been hopping! Although they're sold out now, I do plan on restocking these two costumes in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, if you just need it now, check out the other options in the shop by clicking here.



Camellias and Glass

This week, I took myself to the greenhouses at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, Massachusetts. 


Their website describes the history of the greenhouses and estate as:

In 1793 Theodore Lyman, a Boston merchant in the East India and China trades, began developing his country estate by acquiring thirty acres in Waltham, Massachusetts. He hired an English gardener, William Bell, to lay out the property in the English picturesque style, which included large specimen trees, open fields, a pond system, a kitchen garden area, and a greenhouse complex. 



I saved the estate for a different day, but I was there to see the camellias in the greenhouses this time. The greenhouses are laid out over three levels, and I worked my way through the first two before arriving at the Camellia House. 



The Grape House was "...built in 1804 for growing bananas, citrus, pineapples, and other exotic fruits".






One of the smallest rooms in the network of greenhouses held some of the most unusual specimens.





And it even included a pregnant onion! 


Coming to the Camellia House was just a bit thrilling for me! Camellias always remind me of my grandma. She had the largest camellia bushes I've ever seen in my life! The biggest two bushes must've been at least 8' x 8' and they were simply covered in blooms. She often let me pick the flowers, and being a child and camellia stems being a bit woody, they would frequently come off without a stem. I'd feel badly about that, but she was so calm. She'd simply pour water into a bowl and we'd float the blooms, making them lovely in a whole, new way.


Some of the camellia bushes here are more than 100 years old. But what a rush of nostalgia, as I saw blooms that seemed straight out of my childhood.







The End. I hope you enjoyed your tour!


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