Growing up, I never knew anyone with a birthday close to mine. Now I have four very close friends with birthdays within a week of mine; in fact, one is the day before mine and two are the day after.
Friday night I celebrated with two of the friends who share my birthday week along with their husbands and one other couple (one of the men also has a birthday the day before mine). Everyone gathered at our house for a glass of wine before heading out to dinner. We ate at a wine bar called Dali in One Arts Plaza, a neat urban restaurant/residential/business complex in Dallas's Arts District. Dali had that elusive combination of good food and atmosphere while being quiet enough to allow for enjoyable conversation. We had a really great time.
Earlier in the day, my sister-in-law Cindy came over and helped Dots bake an angel food cake for me. I love angel food cake, and Cindy makes the best version in the whole world! That cake was my very favorite present, even though I had to share it with my angel-food-cake-loving children. Hopefully Dots paid careful attention so she and I can make another one soon.
I really enjoyed my birthday this year. But now that Thanksgiving and my birthday are past, Christmas preparations can officially begin!
We had a very nice Thanksgiving Day. We gathered at Robert's mom's house with Robert's younger sister and her family and Robert's mother and older sister. Robert's twin brother and his family were with his in-laws.
My mother-in-law's table was beautiful, and she and my sisters-in-law had prepared a wonderful spread of Thanksgiving food, with my brother-in-law providing the delicious turkey and gravy. After dinner the kids played football and had a scavenger hunt outside while the rest of us watched the Cowboys beat the Seahawks (a Cowboys victory: now there's a cause for thanksgiving!).
All in all, a very nice Thanksgiving for our family.
Vivian initially would not get out of the car. She also refused to wear a pretty dress. You may have figured out by now that with Vivian I have to choose my battles!
My mother-in-law always serves a beautiful relish tray. I love her little covered butter dish with the duck on top
Progress: Vivian moves from the floor in the back of the car to the middle seat
Daddyman talks Vivian into leaving the safety of the car for her stroller on Mimi's front porch
Then he lures her into the house with the promise of some cheese and crackers!
Aunt Cheryl with her two boys and Hockey Boy and Dots
My nephews Jack and Matt lead the family in prayer before dinner
The kids serving their plates
Robert looks on while Uncle Dennis fixes the gravy
Annie has a table by herself (because her intended dinner companion Vivian retreated upstairs)
The main dinner table
Meanwhile upstairs in Mimi's sitting room...
Some after-dinner family football
Cousin Jack had prepared a pictoral scavenger hunt that the kids enjoyed
Vivian eventually ate a full plate of turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes and green beans and then enjoyed some slices of pumpkin and pecan pie
On this day of Thanksgiving I want to give thanks for a couple of things.
I have been with my parents this week as my mother recovers from recent colon surgery. She is doing remarkably well, and we learned yesterday that the mass they removed from her colon was composed of only precancerous cells so no further treatment will be needed. That is news to be thankful for, indeed!
I am thankful for my family, especially for my sweet husband who held down the fort at home so that I could be with my mom.
I am thankful that Vivian's health and demeanor are greatly improved. I am also thankful for her doctors and for the people who research and manufacture the medicines that have given her relief from her seizures.
I am thankful for my friends. I had the great pleasure of meeting my blog friend Kim from 3 Peanuts this week. She is every bit as charming and personable in *real life* as she is on her blog. I also got to see her beautiful new home and meet her precious 3 Peanuts and even *Mr Peanut.* I hope we get to visit again soon, Kim, and for a longer time. I felt like we could have talked for hours more.
I am thankful for my wonderful mother-in-law, Dorothy, who is kindly and graciously hosting us for Thanksgiving dinner today. She sets a beautiful table and serves a fabulous buffet of delicious food (including the best dressing in the world!). She has the gift of making everyone feel welcome and relaxed, even when she has a houseful, and she is one of the people I admire most in this world.
I hope that your Thanksgiving finds you enjoying good food and the good company of people you love. May we all be more thankful for our blessings today and every day.
**Note: Special thanks to Photographer Extraordinaire Robyn for these pictures!**
My sweet friend Erin just returned from China where she, her husband, Bob, and their daughter, Mollianne, welcomed their newest family member, Meisey Faith.
I first met Erin when our husbands worked together several years ago, and we reconnected through her blog last spring. Erin was the inspiration for my blog.
One of Erin's sweet friends, Robyn, kindly invited me to join their group for dinner near the airport to welcome Erin and her family home after they flew in from China.
What a privilege it was to meet precious Meisey in person after having waited and prayed for her for years and followed her family's journey to her over the past few weeks. Almost as exciting was getting to meet Erin's fun friends, Robyn, Valerie and Christie, whom I had previously known only through their blogs. We hugged, laughed and conversed like we had known each other for years.
Thank you, Robyn, for so kindly including me in this joyous occasion. And thank you, Blogger and Erin, for introducing me to such a lovely group of ladies. Most of all, welcome home, dear Meisey! I don't know who is luckier: you to be joining such a wonderful, loving family or them to be blessed with the cutest, sweetest baby I've seen in a long time.
Erin and Meisey
Erin with Meisey and Robyn with her daughter, Avery
Dots and me
Dots and Mollianne
Mollianne, Bob, Erin and Meisey: happy family of four!
This morning Vivian brought her daddyman a brown marker and some pieces of paper and asked him to draw a picture of Rudolph for her to color. This is what he came up with while standing at the counter and eating a bowl of cereal (and just after running 10+ miles). Vivian did a nice job with her coloring, too, I thought!
In our family artistic talent is either all or nothing. Robert can draw anything! He is especially accomplished with an Etch-a-Sketch, and he entertains us all with his crayon creations at restaurants that have butcher paper on the table. Will and I, on the other hand, have not one artistic bone between the two of us. Dots, luckily, has inherited Robert's talent.
Dots takes art lessons once a week at a really neat studio in our neighborhood. Yesterday she came home with two creations that I thought were particularly good: a self-portrait that was part of a study of Egyptian art and a sculpture whose inspiration and background are unknown because I forgot to ask.
When I told her how much I liked both of her pieces of art, Dots asked excitedly, "Oh! Will you put them on your blog?"
Another of my favorite Thanksgiving decorations is this Pilgrim and Indian set. My mother bought them for me from a local sculptor we both like (who also made a Nativity Set that is one of my favorite things to get out at Christmas). They grace my dining room table each year.
We hosted all of my husband's family for dinner Sunday to celebrate my mother-in-law's birthday. I served pulled pork on rolls, cole slaw and corn bake. The biggest hit was some new hors d'oeuvres I made. They were not hard at all but were very tasty. The kids liked them too.
Cheesy Corn Bites
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temp. 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese 1 large egg ½ cup frozen corn kernels 48 scoop-shaped tortilla chips chopped cilantro, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, pepper jack cheese, egg and corn. Arrange the chips on a large rimmed baking sheet and place 1 tsp. of corn mixture in each. Bake until filling sets, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve warm.
Thursday night I helped host a surprise party in honor of my friend Wendy's 40th birthday. We had the party at another hostess's beautiful home. It's much easier giving a party at someone else's house than at my own!
With two of the other hostesses before the party
The beautiful buffet table.
Wendy loves sushi and Asian food. A great restaurant called Asian Mint prepared the food for us and placed it in our serving pieces.
Garnishing the wonderful food
Summer rolls with peanut dipping sauce
The exquisite (and delicious) birthday cake
Tray of party favors. Notice the napkins with Wendy's monogram on the right.
Close-up of party favors
The Birthday Girl arrives!
Wendy realizes two of her friends have flown in for the party
Wendy with all the hostesses
We had about ten guests in addition to the seven hostesses, including two of Wendy's longtime friends from Atlanta. One of the hostesses had prepared a DVD with pictures of Wendy with her family and friends over the years. Watching that was a real highlight of the party for everyone. Wendy seemed genuinely surprised and deeply touched by the party.
Celebrating with good friends: does it get any better than this?
The end of this week has been crazy. I gave a party for a friend Thursday night and then played in a bridge tournament all day yesterday and today. Hockey Boy has a game at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow and I am hosting all of my husband's family for my mother-in-law's birthday dinner here tomorrow night. Hopefully I will recover quickly from all this and post something of substance here soon! Thanks for checking in.
My blog friend SheBakesCakes at The Marrying Cake posted about a newsletter she receives from Gwyneth Paltrow called GOOP. This recipe was highlighted in the October edition (and on SheBakesCakes' blog). I made it for dinner Monday night, and it was delicious, that rare combination of enough flavor for Robert and me to enjoy it but plain enough not to scare off my finicky children. I served the chicken with brown rice and steamed vegetables, like she suggested.
CARAMELIZED BLACK PEPPER CHICKEN
I (Gwyneth) recently found this recipe in Food & Wine magazine. It’s from Charles Phan, who runs the great Vietnamese restaurant, Slanted Door, in San Francisco. When I make it, I use a little less sugar, a lot more cilantro and organic chicken breasts (I prefer the texture of white meat in this preparation). This literally takes minutes, is so easy and tastes like what you always imagine take-out will taste like (but sadly never does). Serve this with jasmine or brown rice and stir-fried or steamed vegetables.
SERVES: 4 generously TIME: 10 minutes
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (unrefined) 1/3 cup fish sauce 1/3 cup rice vinegar 1/2 cup water 2 teaspoons finely grated garlic 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger 2 teaspoons coarsely ground pepper 1 or 2 fresh Thai chilies (to your taste!), halved 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 shallots, thinly sliced 2 pounds organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into small pieces (1/2”) 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, fish sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, ginger, pepper and chili and reserve.In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and cook the shallots until softened and a bit brown, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and stir-fry, browning it all over, about a minute. Add the sugar mixture and simmer over high heat until the chicken is totally cooked through, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve.
Eloise's notes: If you include prep time, this takes longer than 10 minutes, probably more like 25. I used about ¼ cup Sugar in the Raw and a ¼ cup regular dark brown sugar. After one minute, my chicken wasn't anything close to brown, so I had to cook it longer; I think perhaps my pan wasn't hot enough. I used a red jalapeno pepper, seeded, instead of Thai chilies because that's what I had.
A couple of years ago it became difficult for Robert and me to attend church together. Vivian was functioning at about a 4-year-old level, and the Sunday School classes with kids her age were too advanced but she was getting too big to be with the preschoolers. With her unpredictable behavior and tendency to scream and melt down at inappropriate times, taking her into the sanctuary with us wasn't a good solution either.
Some friends from my Circle (a monthly women's small group Bible Study) offered to coordinate a team of Sunday morning volunteers to care for Vivian one-on-one. They found an unused preschool classroom and recruited friends to stay with Vivian.
This worked great for about a year. But as Vivian's seizures increased and her behavior deteriorated, Robert and I struggled to get her dressed, into the car and into church in any sort of timely, peaceful manner. A couple of times when we were unable to get Vivian into the building, the volunteer offered to drive around in our car with her, but more often than not, I would send the rest of my family on to church and tell them to apologize to the volunteer while I stayed home with Vivian.
After one of these occasions, a friend offered to begin caring for Vivian in our house on her designated Sunday morning. This worked out so well that she was able to convince other volunteers to do the same.
What a blessing this has been for our family. On Sunday mornings an angel arrives at our house and stays with Vivian so that Hockey Boy, Dots, Robert and I can attend church together. We get up, get dressed and get in and out of the car without any fussing or screaming! It enables us to have a peaceful, productive morning of worship and fellowship.
Hockey Boy had a Varsity game last night. It was a real nail biter, with our team trailing by a goal most of the game and then coming back to tie it up with 6 minutes left and scoring a goal to win it in overtime.
Not everyone was on the edge of their seat in eager anticipation, however...
Married for 27 years to Robert, three kids: Will (23), Vivian (20) and Dots (17) ~~~~
Majored in mathematics at SMU, taught elementary school for six years before Will was born, currently tutoring math ~~~~
Things I enjoy: playing duplicate bridge, working NY Times crossword puzzles, reading good books, entertaining, visiting with friends, planning trips, traveling, playing board games, spending time with family, cooking, keeping up with old friends ~~~ happy to correspond with other parents about raising a child with special needs
I unintentionally contaminated all of the pictures on my blog when I changed my privacy settings on Flickr. I am working backwards to correct them all, but it is quite a tedious procedure! If you encounter a post with error messages from Flickr where the pictures should be, then I haven't gotten to that post yet. Please let me know and I will update it immediately. Thanks for your patience!