Sunday, June 26, 2011

In Which a Spoiled Woman Becomes More Spoiled

And that would be me!

This sad tale begins several years ago, when The Patriarch and I were having a conversation about our 50th birthdays approaching – an unbelievable thought! I said that he should fulfill a long-held dream and go to a big reggae festival in northern California for his 50th. In fact, why didn’t each of us choose a big-dream 50th gift? We agreed that this would be our plan.

Sadly, as The Patriarch’s 50th drew close, it became obvious that he wouldn’t be able to go so far away for a week. Each time he’d left the state to visit relatives for a week, one of our little sick ones would end up hospitalized. We had one very scary episode where first one was hospitalized, then the next, and the third very sick and on the edge. It was so difficult – I couldn’t really leave the hospital, and yet there were very sick children at home. So we made an alternate plan. There was another reggae festival that was three days long, and a six hour drive away. There were artists he liked that were booked, and if we had another illness crisis here, he’d be able to come back in plenty of time to avoid another nightmare.

This spring, around March, the younger children and I were doing homeschool and The Patriarch came downstairs. He asked Clara if she had a birthday list up yet. She said that she didn’t, but that she’d make one soon (for her early April birthday). I teasingly reminded him that he shouldn’t talk – I didn’t see a list up for his April birthday, either – and he replied, “Well, you know what I want – to go to the reggae festival again”. This led to more teasing about him turning 50 again every year now to get his “big” birthday gift. But it worried me a little, because he seemed to have forgotten the earlier agreement. And, well, I was excited about my turn coming up. I had a BIG request, a dream that I’d had for over a decade.

So I asked, “You do remember about our agreement that we’d each get a ‘big-dream’ gift for our 50th, right?” and he looked like he’d forgotten entirely. He said, “Uhmmm, I guess I’m going to have to spoil my surprise here. I booked our beach vacation for your birthday!”

This is the spoiled brat part (blushing furiously): My reaction was “No way!!! You WHAT??!!”. We go to the beach for a family vacation every year. And it is a great time – very fun; love it – but for my big promised 50th birthday gift? Our family vacation?!!?!?

Now, I was trying to express all of this quietly and respectfully and all, but wasn’t that a bratty reaction? Wait, it gets worse. So The Patriarch asked, “Well, what is it that you want?” I once again asked for the dream-gift I’d asked for before, always getting a snort in response, but this time he slowly asked details about how we’d do it, cost, etc. The children were sitting wide-eyed, silent, and shushing each other, because they would be over the moon if I got my gift. At the end of the conversation, he was fairly encouraging. A couple of days later he said that if a list of projects could get done, my request would be a “go”. These are the projects that have been blogged: the twin beds and the loft project, plus painting our bedroom (and we hope to finish this up this week).

So as we work on my Dream Gift (and this should be complete enough to blog in a couple of weeks), let me give a wee tiny pic-hint of where we’re going:


Back to the embarrassing part of my Spoiled Brat story. So after The Patriarch agreed that I’d get my Dream Gift, he kept asking if I didn’t want to move our beach trip to some other day. No, of course – I was fine with the trip being over my birthday since my dream was coming true!

We went to our usual rental at the beach, despite Tarquin being pretty sick. He’d been coughing and throwing up for a couple of days, so we went back and forth. But I wondered if he might not do better in different pollen, since all of our allergic family members were miserable, and we went. We were settling in, unloading the van, when The Patriarch said he’d forgotten something and had to run out really quick on an errand. He came back when I was giving the little guy a nebulizer, and he was putting away groceries when the doorbell rang. Gareth had just been running around outside, so as The Patriarch went to get the door I told him, “I think it’s Gareth”. The door opened – and to my utter, utter shock, it was my parents, my two sisters, and my niece! One of my sisters lives 14 hours away from me in California! They called out, “Happy Birthday” while I sat with my mouth wide open in utter confusion!

As it turns out, The Patriarch had planned this way back in February or March. He rented another house next to our rental for the rest of them, and we all had a vacation together. He had had me create a birthday menu, and I ate about six zillion calories, worth every one. Just had the last slice of zucchini-mushroom-caramelized-onion frittata for lunch today.

One of my sisters (who had known about this the whole time, of course), said, “Way to work the situation – you got this big event PLUS your dream gift!” Yikes!!!

So that, my friends, is how one very spoiled woman became more spoiled. Our little girls had a delightful time having their cousin along – she is right between them in age, and my little girls just adore her. We had her sleep up at our rental so that the three of them could whisper and giggle until hideous hours of the night and have long discussions on topics from beads to debating the best Nancy Drew mystery.

Of course we need pictures! Here they are:

012 We had great weather off and on over the days we were there.


008 Happy girls :-)


018Perfect fun, having cousins at the beach


020Poor Tarquin felt too miserable to hit the beach; this is the only time The Patriarch was able to get him out there for a few minutes.


026   My youngest sister brought kites! We’ve never had kites at the beach before, but the first day was perfect. Here she is showing Nigel and Clara how to fly a kite!


031My not-youngest sister ;-) had never to her memory flown a kite before, and found the experience much fun and quite relaxing once she got the hang of it. Love this picture with the delight on her face!


035She wanted photographic proof of flying the kite for her husband, so to my dear brother-in-law who tried to get the time off work to join us, and so generously allowed his wife to come up, here she is aloft! (And thank you so much – that goes for you, too, other brother-in-law. My profound thanks to you both <3 )


039   The three of us sisters just talk and talk and talk when we’re together! What a treat.


044 There was “Apples to Apples”


045 Scrabble


047Origami Time


048  And a Patriarch who kept us (at our rental, anyway) out of the kitchen.


046 While poor little Tarquin felt miserable, he was no worse than at home, and got a little better each day. Today he is running around with just a lingering cough, but is keeping his formula down and has plenty of energy.


053 As you know, a celebration means a special dessert. Clara and Sophia collaborated on this one - “Tuxedo Truffle Torte”, another of Marcel Desaulniers’ recipes, this from Desserts To Die For. It was chosen both for its inherent gluten-free nature, and because it was one of the few desserts that could be done ahead. It ended up looking a little ragged since, despite our best efforts at padding it for the road, it did slide and lose the lovely piped finish and finished sides. No matter: the taste was fabulous and wildly chocolatey. Just the thing for a female turning fifty!


067 From the two families of my sisters: a yogurt maker with glass jars, and an extra case of jars to go with. My “not-youngest” sister had remembered for many months that I’d wanted one of these!


055Didn’t get a good pic of what was inside here, but this lovely gift was from my parents. Many, many years ago I’d bought my mother a leather purse in Florence, Italy, in a little leather shop along the River Arno. She is downsizing and gave this purse to me – all these years later, and it’s still a wonderful purse. What a treasure!


072  We had quite the drive back. Thunder, lightening, violent downpour, and hail! I was so glad I’d left plastic over the top of my tomatoes at home!


So that is the tale of “One Very Spoiled Woman”. There will be a sequel, obviously, as I get the Dream Gift in a couple of weeks, but this was such a wonderful thing that The Patriarch had planned for me, and my family blessed me with.

Friday, June 17, 2011

New Kitchen Tools

Isn’t it fun how a new kitchen tool can rejuvenate your cooking life? Amazon has one of their buy-3-get-one-free specials running right now in the kitchen category, and we needed some popsicle molds. I use the word “need” advisedly, as I’m having to get increasingly creative to get vegetables into one of my children (cough, cough Gareth). I love the "Whole Food Kids" website, since she has so many popsicle recipes that sneak in veg! Our library also had some fun ice pop books, so we’re having great fun playing with recipes and our new ice pop molds.

But I digress. We needed spatulas. We got a set of yummy-colored silicone spatulas with bamboo handles. Wow – way to up the fun level in the kitchen! Silicone is usable with higher temperatures, and the bamboo handles are smooth. (I don’t have an affiliate account with Amazon, by the way, I’m just happy with my purchase). And the point of this post – we have been using a marble rolling pin for years now whose handles have long since broken. So we finally replaced it with a lovely maple French rolling pin, and Sophia and Clara have been rolling things out ever since. This morning it was gluten-free cheese crackers for snacking:




Sophia is kind enough to share her recipe here. When I asked her which cookbook the recipe was from, she said, “The gluten-free cheese cracker recipes are basically the same in all of the books, but I’ve messed around with them to use the flours we usually have here, so it’s really my recipe at this point”.


Sophia’s Gluten Free Cheese Crackers


8 oz sharp cheddar, cubed

4 T unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

3/4 C white rice flour

1/4 C potato starch

3/4 t salt

1/4 t pepper (black or cayenne)

Cold water (around 1/4 C)

1. Place the cheddar and butter cubes in the food processor and pulse until reduced to small bits.

2. Add the flour, starch, salt and pepper. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

3. Slowly add in the water until a dough forms. Put the dough in the fridge or freezer to chill.

4. Once chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out and cut into desired shapes. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the crackers are golden.



Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Loft Bed is Done

This project took longer than the twin storage bed project, but only because The Patriarch and his friend had more trouble finding days to work on it.
But at long last, the loft bed is done and ready for Nigel to move into his study space! Gareth is already sleeping up top. Once again, built using plans by the ever-fabulous Ana White based on this bed unit at Pottery Barn.
The guys modified it to run the steps vertically because we don’t have room for a separate ladder, and as you can see, the bookcases are switched from the original (this to support the steps).
I’ll post again once we’ve gotten it filled in with books and all, but here it is, finished!

As usual, I wish I had Pottery Barn’s photographer here to do the bed justice!
It’s been so wonderful to have these pieces of furniture grow where there once was a breaking down IKEA trundle bed. And I admit to being really happy to put away the “Espresso Bean” paint and can of polyurethane. Although I did just put them in the garage . . . thinking about some matching storage shelves next year . . .

Friday, June 10, 2011

What A Wonderful Day

Nigel, our second son, graduated today from community college with an associate’s degree. He also graduated from homeschool high school. When he enters university next year, he’ll enter as a freshman with junior standing.

This son has had to work every inch of the way. He’s gotten where he’s gotten by diligence, and we’re so proud of him.



Ceremony at the Tacoma Dome

054Right in the center of the pic – he’s waving! Sophia got these photos from way back in the bleachers

063Walking up to get his diploma

108  College grad

142  High school graduation

156Nigel reading his diploma

167  A high school graduate

Of course, it’s not a special occasion if the honored one doesn’t choose the dinner! Nigel loves a Rachael Ray recipe, “Big Bistro Burgers with Goat Cheese and Beet Salad”

174 Those are caramelized shallots on top – I believe the term is “yummo”

179 Well, and who wouldn’t choose chocolate raspberry cheesecake if Clara was cooking it?

A wonderful day.