My girlfriends threw me a surprise birthday party! Andy was in on it, but Henry and George and I were not, so when I walked in and my friends yelled Surprise! I jumped out of my skin. Henry too- he clung to my leg, whether out of embarrassment at having been startled or because he didn’t get to stay at the party, I don’t know. Helen gave each of the kids a fat wad of cash and Andy took them to Gattitown, their favorite place in the world (the kids’ not Andy’s), and I got to stay in the company of other adults, adults I love, and eat beautiful food from a beautiful table and do art projects and it was the greatest. I felt embarrassed and enraptured in equal measure that these women had gone to so much trouble for me. I’ll never forget it.
Here’s what we ate this week.
In the course of putting a party together, Helen and I often obnoxiously chime, “love is in the details!” Which is a quotation we always attributed to Martha Stewart, but she didn’t say that. Anyway, there was so much love in this party. Amanda grew, gathered, and arranged these flowers- aren’t they spectacular? I think she is astoundingly talented. Helen made me a beautiful cheesecake with a gorgeous cake topper and decorated the space, Joanna and Christy brought food and the most wonderful craft projects, and Molly made the most lavish and delicious feast of all time, in addition to being the world’s best hostess, and making beautiful name cards and fans and paper flowers and a fancy hipster cinnamon toast crunch cocktail(!).
Another table shot because I think it’s so pretty.
Another Amanda arrangement, before it was surrounded by rich eggy delights.
You’re officially an adult when you receive a throw pillow as a birthday present.
Molly! Everybody needs a Molly. She is brilliant and fiery, hilarious and charming, and above all, loyal. We’ve been best friends since we were five- the two outspoken bitches of Hays county. I stayed at her house for whole weeks at a time during the summers of our adolescence. We’d play cards, eat ice on the porch, and watch untold hours of Jerry Springer and Ricky Lake in the afternoons and that crazy Christian show with the lady with big hair and lots of makeup that came on after midnight. Was this the 700 Club? I have no idea. We were in it for the hair. I’d do anything for Molly and she’d do anything for me and I know how truly lucky I am to have a friend like that. I love you, Molly. Thank you for my beautiful party.
I’m looking rather dour here, but had to share this picture anyway because everything else is so good. Look at that spread! And at Molly’s good morning asshole mug!
Helen took all these pictures for me so I could just sit in a chair and eat a lot of food. Molly made gingerbread waffles with berries, two quiches, candied bacon, and some cheddar green onion grits I have been dreaming about ever since. Also the perfect brunch cocktail, which I think was like the linked recipe except with cinnamon toast crunch soaking in the milk instead of honey smacks. A good change! I always hated that frog on the smacks box, and also the cereal sucks. Christy brought a big beautiful salad and the loveliest brie en croute with honey and almonds, Amanda brought one of my favorite things- bacon-wrapped dates, Joanna brought a delicious bacon-y quiche, and Helen made me a showstopping birthday cheesecake with A LAYER OF FUDGE INSTEAD OF CRUST and an almond whipped cream and a honey caramel sauce. I loved all of it, every bite, all the more so because of the people who cooked it for me.
Fudgie the Cheesecake in all its glory. Or most of its glory, because it doesn’t have its whipped cream or caramel sauce yet. I love that Helen chose to depict me as a bunny-holding flower child. This is the embodiment of me in my every day life, yes it is.
The sister-of-my-life! And my big toothy grin.
After eating for a long time, we decorated wooden Day of the Dead skulls that Joanna brought and everyone sewed bats for a bat mobile (the other kind) that Christy thought of and that I got to take home. I had been talking to Christy about remembering the Halloween decorations that my mom would hang up every year- a paper skeleton with brads in its knees and elbows on the door, and a black witch on a broom that hung from the light near the front window- and I wanted to have a few decorations that I could bring out every year. Now I do, in addition to a feathery black wreath that Christy made for my front door, and I’ll have the additional joy of remembering making them with my friends when I take them out every year.
I’m the luckiest. I love you all.
Leftover Brie en Croute with Honey and Almonds, Meats and Stuff. I got to take home the rest of the brie and bread, and thus it was the gift that kept on giving, because it meant I could just throw some meat and apple slices on a board and call it dinner.
Scary Witch. I’ve been wanting a real witch costume for years, and every year I intend to sew myself one, and every year I end up cobbling it together at the last minute, with lackluster results. Last year I took out the black material I’d purchased eight or more years earlier for a witch costume and thought that I could at least sew a simple black skirt. I couldn’t. Turns out I can’t eyeball how to sew a simple skirt- it was lopsided and too tight and unwearable. But not this year! My parents bought me a witch costume and witch shoes and it even comes with black press-on nails. I just gotta work on my scary witch face.
Andy took the day off for my birthday, and he and the kids went out and bought me Valentina’s breakfast tacos and gave me presents and homemade cards. Andy got me a camping trip! Which he hates and I love, so it’s a really selfless gift. Then I got to go to the West Elm outlet store with Helen and Amanda and they helped me pick out two beautiful and very cheap arm chairs for our house. One doesn’t have legs, which is why it was cheap, and I had to sort out what to do about that, but still! New chairs! Anyway, then I came home and had the shittiest birthday. The boys were awful. I think Henry was mad that I had abandoned him two days in a row, but he slammed his body around in my new chair and did his best to try to knock it over, and then grabbed at my ankles and almost tripped me and George just screamed and screamed about I don’t remember what. I went into the backyard to sit by myself and wondered what to do. It seemed stupid to spend an hour making the falafel dinner I had planned to cook when the boys were being so rude and probably wouldn’t eat it anyway, so I thought, I’ll just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and Andy and buttered noodles for the kids and we’ll do an early bedtime and then Andy and I can come out in the backyard and build a fire after they’re asleep. But I’d forgotten that an appraiser was coming to our house the next day (in hopes that it would appraise high enough for us to stop paying private mortgage insurance) which meant we had to spend the whole evening cleaning up. I know it sounds unbelievably lame and bratty but I was so desperately unhappy at the evening- the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and the hours of cleaning and not liking my children that I sat on the bench in front of our house and cried. I spent the night and most of the next day feeling sorry for myself.
Falafel and Funky Olives. Here’s my would-be birthday dinner, one day late. Those olives were terrible but the falafel is perfect. I did what I could to make a plan to feel happier. I talked to Henry about how much I do for him to make his birthday special, and said that I had hoped he could have been nice to me on my birthday. He seemed to understand. Then I asked Grandma Mary if she could babysit so Andy and I could go out on a date. We hadn’t been out on a date since July and we’d gotten into a pattern of doing stuff for the kids and then doing what needed to be done around the house, or contract work, or any number of things that made us more and more distant.
The next night, we went to Lenoir, a semi-fancy restaurant just up the street from us. It was so wonderful to sit and just enjoy being with Andy. And to eat a beautiful meal. I had a summer bean chaat, a sea bass poke salad with fried okra, grilled quail with papaya salad, and a smoked apple creme caramel. We made a plan to make our relationship a priority, and to do something fun together every night, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. There was a recent meme on Facebook where people listed their 7 favorite movies. I had seen very few of the ones people listed, and many of them showed up on lots of people’s lists. So we went to Vulcan Video (which relocated and is now just about 5 minutes away from our house) and Andy and I have been watching movies together all week. Almost Famous was one of the ones that people listed in their top 7 over and over again, so we watched that. Spy (with Melissa McCarthy) and Wild (with Reese Witherspoon) showed up on no ones list, but we watched those too, and loved all three. And I loved spending that time with Andy. I feel a lot better.
Sopita, Beans in a Tortilla. My parents gave us the opportunity to buy their old car, which is in great shape and has an unbelievable 14,000 miles on it. We figured we shouldn’t let this opportunity pass because we’d never be able to find a car with that mileage for that price, but wondered if it was the right call, because the car Andy drives is old, but worked fine and is completely paid off. The day after we decided to buy my parents car, Andy’s wouldn’t start. And it’s not the battery. So, we need no longer doubt our decision to buy the new car. The kids and I drove Andy to work, then went on a nature hike over the mosquito-infested creek at Windmill Run park, then drove way up north for a science class for Henry. The science class is for homeschoolers, and takes place in a real science lab with real equipment and Henry loved it. He got to put his hand in a blubber-like glove to see how it insulated him from cold water and make fake snow and learn about what happens to our bodies when they get too cold. George and I played with toys nearby and I listened to the instructor and liked learning about frostbite too. We had to go pick up Andy from work when I would normally be cooking dinner, so we had a quick garbage dinner but I liked that too.
Nutty Applesauce Squash Tea Cake. This was also the day of the autumnal equinox. I thought this would be the perfect cake for it because it combines zucchini (summer squash) with apples (a fall crop). Half summer, half fall, just like the equinox. I put down a beautiful new table runner Christy quilted for me for my birthday, we put the tapered candles Helen bought for me, because I never have them and always want to light some, in the candle holders, and Andy and I each found a poem to read for the start of the fall. It would have all been very charming, if the children gave two shits. George yelled and climbed all over me while I read my poem, which I tried to keep reading for a while before giving up, and then the kids left the table to go do a lightsaber fight (not very equinox-y) before Andy read his. He read it to me instead and I enjoyed it very much.Oh yeah, we also made sun prints using some special cyanotype paper I bought at the science lab store. So that’s sort of equinox-y.
Spaghetti with Tomato, Onion, Butter Sauce. My sister is moving into her very first house this weekend! I helped her pack on Saturday and she had to politely tell me she had errands to run a few times before I could pull myself away from the box of brown paper and the pile of glasses that needed to be wrapped up in it. I hadn’t gone to the store so we had spaghetti for dinner.
Frozen Chicken Strip Salad. The whole family got together to help Helen and Jordan move on Sunday. We did the whole thing- loading the truck, driving to the new house, unloading the truck, with breaks to stop and eat breakfast tacos and heaps of barbecue- in just about five hours. Pretty damn good! With kids to maneuver around too!
When we got back home, Andy took the kids to the grocery store so I could pack for our trip. The boys and I are visiting my parents in Portland for nine days. I’m nervous about flying on a plane with the kids without another adult to help, and about having to do bedtime by myself for over a week. And I’ll miss Andy. But otherwise, I’m excited. We get to go apple picking (it’s honeycrisp season!) and hang out with Cousin Jack and spend time somewhere with real fall temperatures (we’re bringing jackets!) and of course soak up time with my parents. Happy Fall, everyone!