George’s Stick-y Birthday Party! And Endless Pizza

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We’ve been celebrating George this week! He’s two now! This kid is an undeniable delight and I squeeze my teeth together really hard when I think about him. That’s a thing I do when something’s cute- is that weird or do you do it too? Some things I have loved about George recently:

George, gesturing: “Um. Your Boob. Can I touch your boob?”
Me: “No.”
George: “I want milk.”
Me: 😐

Singing the Jake and the Neverland Pirates theme song: “Yo ho babies, away!”

Also inspired by JatNP, George says “pixie dust, away!” to anything he’d like to banish- “pixie dust, away, car!” “pixie dust, away, cat!”. I know it seems like we watch a lot of Jake the Neverland Pirates, but that’s because we do. It is the only show we watch now.

He’s so charming, and pleasant. When you asked him what he was excited about for his birthday, he’d say “blowing out the candlesticks.” And all week he kept saying, “It’s almost my birthday?!” So when he woke up the morning of his birthday, I said, “George, today is your birthday!”  And he promptly burst into tears and said “Leave me alone, mama!” Which was unexpected. I think I got in his face when he hadn’t woken up yet. Or my early morning enthusiasm was obnoxious. Either way, fair! He ended up having a great birthday in spite of my general uncouth-ness.

Here are a few photos of the things I cooked this week, plus four hundred pictures of George’s stick-themed birthday party.

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Martha Stewart’s One Pan Pasta. Ok, so this recipe made all the rounds last year and garnered as big a buzz as a recipe can get online IMO- it got written up on smitten kitchen, and got the “genius recipe” label on food52. In spite of that, and in spite of my deep and passionate love for all things pasta, I had no desire to try it. I just didn’t think the ingredients sounded like they would turn into anything all that great when you cooked them all together. But then my friend Amanda, who has impeccable taste, said that’s she’d made it recently and it was amazing, so I had to try it. Well, I did, and I didn’t love it. It’s good! Don’t get me wrong- it tastes nice, and the sauce that’s made from the tomatoes bursting and the garlic and onion softening, and the starch reducing in the small amount of water is smooth and velvety. But I like the marcella hazan (genius) tomato sauce about a hundred times more. That recipe takes longer but is easier even than this one pan-trick, because you just put three things in a pot and walk away and then walk back and put it on top of pasta. I’m by far in the minority in my lukewarm review of this one pan pasta- people are nuts for it. Maybe I did it wrong, or maybe my grocery store grape tomatoes made it less-than transcendent. You should probably try it if you haven’t because lots of people who are smarter than me think it’s rad.

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Yes, I’m sorry: More Pita Pizzas. I had to make myself not buy more pita bread at the store this week, because if it’s in the house now I’m going to turn it into pizza, and I’ve already made a huge dent in my supposed-to-be-for-winter canned crushed tomatoes in this lust for a quick-fix pie. Andy and George had matching pizzas. Just cheese because I forgot to buy pepperoni. Henry put everything I offered on his, including sliced up breakfast sausage links. Mine had tomato and arugula and sliced shallot, because I ran out of onion. I think probably no one cares what toppings I put on my pizza (“Oh! Shallot, you say!”) but I typed it and there’s no going back now.

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These Lemon Muffins. Muffin Test #2 in my quest for new favorite muffin recipes, crowd-sourced from my facebook friends! These were delicious! Style points to the recipe writer for being funny, and for making a good muffin recipe. Negative points for writing the recipe in paragraph format without an ingredient list, cuz then I have to read more to get from here to lemon muffins. But I’ll be making these again for sure- Andy just loved them. The kids really did too.  You poke holes in them and pour in a little lemon sugar syrup when they’re still warm and Henry enjoyed trying to mop up as much of the syrup puddles with his muffin stump as possible before taking each bite. Thank you, Ben! Next up, ginger muffins!

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Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili, Elote, Sort of. My pantry was dwindling, but I knew I wanted to make something with the single aging sweet potato in the back of the shelf and a can of black beans. Henry had barely eaten all day and his mood was suffering because of it, and he had asked for “something delicious and a lot of it” for dinner, and I remembered this recipe that my mom had shared with me. I had to improvise a bit because I was missing ingredients, but this turned out great AND Henry ate four bowlfuls. I didn’t grill the corn, I just boiled it and brushed it with sour cream (not mayonnaise like you’re supposed to because that kind of weirds me out) and sprinkled it with cotija leftover from our beach trip. It was ok! It should really be grilled, but corn plus fat plus cheese is always going to taste at least semi-delicious.

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George’s Requested Birthday Cake: Brown Cake, Blue Icing. Plus Rainbow Sprinkles.

George’s actual birthday was on Friday. Andy took the day off and we had a leisurely morning opening presents and eating canned cinnamon rolls. Not the fancy can with organic ingredients. The pillsbury can. The kids didn’t enjoy them much, which meant that Andy and I got to eat nearly four each. Then we drove up to Pflugerville to go to a huge indoor playground at a place called Mt. Playmore. George and Henry both really loved it, and crawled around and around the huge play structure, with Andy and me in tow, cause those are the rules, y’all. We ate a pile of fried snacks at the bowling-alley style cafe there, and played in the arcade (they had The Grand Prize Game from the Bozo the Clown show!!! it was hard and we did poorly) and earned ourselves 45 tickets, which was enough to buy Henry a Rainbow Dash tattoo and George a sparkly purple magic wand. God help me, we ate more pizza for dinner. Homeslice, this time. And we over-ordered and ate the leftovers all weekend and I’m officially never eating pizza again. Singing happy birthday to George, before we cut into his blue-frosted cake, was one of my all-time favorite moments. George looked around at all of us with his sweet, quiet smile and just seemed so happy that we were all singing to him.

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This is George’s smile when you ask him to smile and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that it rocks my world.

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The Party Spread. George is perpetually picking up sticks and holding on to them for (literal) hours, going so far as to sleep with them clutched tightly in his fist, until I’m able to pry them out of his grasp. So we had a stick party for his birthday and ate a lot of foods on sticks, and went fishing with sticks wrapped up with a straightened-out metal coat hanger for a hook, and made crafts with sticks.

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Same Cake, Same Icing as the Blue Cake (with mashed strawberries mixed in this time), plus Cake Topper from my Sisterrrr!

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Close Up on the Cake Topper. It’s so dear! Deer! I love that my sister can make this stuff, and that she’s willing to do it for me. It’s so nice to not have to try to decorate cakes with frosting, which I am truly terrible at.

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Extreme Close Up. I love them.

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More Spread. That basket of clementines went untouched.

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All the stick-y snacks. Plus Doritos because they are one of George’s favorite things.

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All the stick-y candies! Plus snickers because they are a waterproof candy that fit inside easter eggs that we turned into fish for a backyard fishing game.

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Fruit Skewers. Nothing interesting to say about these.

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Veggie Sticks. These are also uninteresting.

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Same Cupcakes as above, with Cup4Cup instead of all purpose flour. Oh yeah, and when I’m making these cupcakes for kids, I just use a cup of boiling water in the batter instead of the cup of hot coffee. The coffee version is delicious, but my research shows that it has notable effects on kids, even in cupcake form, so I skip it. They taste simpler, but still so good.

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Really Sharp Stake-Painting Table! My sister set up this table plus everything else in the backyard. Half an hour before the party she said “What else can I do to help?” and I said “Oh nothing, I think we’re done” and then I remembered I had done exactly none of the work for the meager craft projects I had come up with for the party, so she did all the things!

We were out for an after-dinner walk a couple of week ago and someone had put a ton of these yard sign stakes on the curb, so we took em. I thought it’d be fun to sand them down and kids could turn them into swords and decorate them with my new wood burning kit. Well I didn’t get around to sanding them down, and more responsible people pointed out that toddlers + wood burning kit is a liability issue. So we put out paints instead and the kids decorated them so beautifully! And left them here! So now they’re mine forever and I’m going to stick em in the garden for a rainbow fence.

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1000 popsicle sticks, y’all. There’s nothing we can’t do.

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My sister cut these flowers! My maximilian sunflowers are going crazy right now- they’re so huge and overloaded with blooms that they’re sprawled out pitifully on the ground. But they look real nice in this vase.

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The first to arrive!

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Several hours of partying later, George passed out. Since he fell asleep at 5:30 I’m mentally preparing myself for a 5:00 AM wake up time. Please note the shirt, which was a gift from Christy and is hand-embroidered to say “I ❤ Sticks”. George had such a happy birthday, and I am so grateful to our friends and family for coming together to celebrate him. Love to everyone! And many happy returns to beautiful George.

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