BBQ and Sugar Donut Birthday Party

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Birthday party #2 for the week was a huge success, thanks to the help of the aunties, uncles, parents, and cousins!  Whew!  This party was for Ja’Ana’s 17th birthday, and she really wanted fresh donuts–the raised kind with sugar on them that only Auntie Rosalie can make the way J wanted them.

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The decorations were very simple.  Ja’Ana chose gold stars, a garland, gold paper plates and 1 black and 1 white plastic tablecloth from a party store so she could have the theme she wanted.    The rest of the decor and paperware were gathered from less expensive sources.  The plastic silverware was from Winco, the cups and napkins were free from some we had been given a while back.  The invitations, plastic ice cream bowls, and gold ribbon to curl onto the table were from the Dollar Store.

We have an outdoor covered porch next to our deck and the weather cooperated so we could have the entire party outside.

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This isn’t the best picture, but it gives the idea–drinks on a tiny picnic table on the right, and food on the big table which was on the grass next to the concrete–just in case the grass was too wet.  There was some ice in the cooler, which they used as the afternoon wore on and the drinks were getting warm.  I might get a bowl and some tongs next time.  It was a little awkward getting the ice out of the bag out of the cooler……you get the idea.

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Rob barbecued hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken drumsticks.

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Rob, and 2 nephews, Jake and Steven, lit a fire in the portable fire pit.  Ja’Ana thought some might want to roast marshmallows, but no one roasted even one.  We had an abundance of food, and they filled up on other things.  No worries, we’ll take the marshmallows camping.  Jake looks worried, but he was actually proud of himself for being part of that project!  We all enjoyed the time with Steven.  As these kids get older and older, it’s harder to find the time to be with them, so we were thankful for his presence today.

We kept the food simple, inexpensive and tasty.  We have hamburger from the 1/2 beef we purchased last fall.  I got hot dogs for 68c/package and buns for 88c/package.  We also had chicken drumsticks, and I bought about $5-6 worth–a big package.  I made home-made potato salad, which is always a money saver.  I picked lettuce for the burger toppings, added an onion and sliced tomatoes from the store.  One of my sisters put together a veggie tray using snow peas from the garden, and some veggies from the store, such as carrot sticks and celery.  I’ve been buying and stashing $1/2-litre bottles of soda and $1.88/package chips for a few weeks.  I got some of those things during the Memorial Day sales and hid them in the camper.  My other sister graciously brought all the donut-making items, including dough, oil and fryer.  I also made a big nacho dip using refried beans I made and froze last week, and put out corn chips that I had packaged into Ziplocks after buying the huge Costco bag for under $5 a few weeks ago.  Putting them in the gallon bags keeps them fresh.  We used the last 2 bags (probably about $2 worth).  I got bulk candy from Winco to scatter around to make the tables more festive.

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And then, the extremely popular donut crew!   Auntie Rosalie and Auntie Jan were the donut makers.  One girl confessed as she was leaving that those were the best donuts she had ever tasted, and she had eaten 3.

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Auntie Gail passed them around.  Michaela (her daughter) and Ron (her husband) stopped by for a bit on their way to the horse ranch where Michaela volunteers.  We enjoyed seeing them, too.  Alissa and Jake both stayed for the entire party.

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There was another girl who does not show in this picture.  In my mind, the perfect number showed up–enough to have a great time, eat a bunch of food, and to easily fit in our yard and deck.  One of Ja’Ana’s friends from before we moved drove clear down here to join the party, and made Ja’Ana feel very special and loved.  The new friends were very kind and gracious and made her feel welcome–they are a lovely bunch of girls.

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And, the relatives.  What a blessing they are to us.  So supportive, generous and kind.  I’m very thankful for their part in making J’s birthday so special.  And, I’ll have to say, we had a very nice time visiting with each other during the several hours we had together.  It feels good to put my feet up tonight.  This has been a busy week.  Now I can bask in the memories and the feeling of a successful week of birthdays:)

 

 

 

 

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Double Birthday at the Zoo

 

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Today, there were 2 birthday girls celebrating at the Oregon Zoo in Portland,Oregon.  Both Ja’Ana and our little friend, Danait had their birthdays today.  J is 17, and Danait is 3.  We decided to have a celebration together and chose the zoo for the big day.  My sister, Rosalie, Danait’s mother, Harnet, Alissa and myself all went along.

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After several great sunshiny days, the weather man began to predict that today would include heavy rain, up to 45 mile per hour winds gusts, and cool temperatures.  Rosalie and I debated the issue and decided that we needed to go anyway, even if we didn’t stay too long.  When a little 3 year-old is promised animals, she needs to have animals.  The big girls would have done something else without blinking an eye, but cheerfully agreed to give it a try.  Our plan was to dart from covered area to covered area, dodging the raindrops in-between and holding big umbrellas over our heads when needed.  We did decide not to pack a picnic as planned, but instead to buy lunch at the little cafe, where we would be assured of a roof over our heads while we ate.

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We had a blast!  The rain held off until we were eating, praise the Lord!  We chased after a very excited little girl, who was enthusiastic, to put it mildly, to see all of the animals, but especially the monkeys.

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She loved climbing on this toy, as long as Alissa helped her stay on.

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Harnet sure appreciated how much the big girls helped chase little Danait around.  That child is quick.  She reminds me so much of Ja’Ana when she was little.  Harnet is so kind to the girls, always telling them how much she appreciates them playing with Danait, and how she wants Danait to grow up just like them.  What an encourager!

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They enjoyed the African exhibit a lot.  The giraffes reminded Harnet of her home in Africa, as they had them there.  The elephants and lions were also a hit, but little Danait wanted to see the monkeys the most, and watched them for a long time.  They obliged by throwing their food (some kind of leaves and fruit) around after taking a bite or two, and jumping around a bit.  So exciting!

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It was a great day and both girls had a great birthday.   It was so special that they could spend it with each other.  Little Danait loves Alissa and Ja’Ana and often says “they coming’ mama, they coming’.”  Even when they aren’t.  Then she will pout because they aren’t.  Of course, the big girls think she is adorable, and who doesn’t love to be looked up to and adored right back!  We 3 ladies had a great time visiting, laughing and watching the girls have fun.    Once it started pouring rain and the wind picked up, as the weatherman had promised, we finished our lunch and headed for our respective homes.  Both Ja’Ana and Alissa had driver’s ed drives this afternoon and evening.  Ja’Ana drove all the way there in the rain, on 2 freeways, and home again through rain, a huge traffic jam, and windy conditions.  I was so proud of how she is doing with her driving.

Rosalie went back with Harnet to her house so they could work on making appointments, and other things that needed to be done.  Sometimes Harnet has Rosalie make phone calls for her, to make sure the person on the other end understands exactly what is needed.  Her English just keeps getting better and better–I can really tell a big difference in the few months I have known her, but sometimes, she just wants a little help.   Rosalie is really good at that kind of thing.   We are already making some plans for summer.  Once we get Harnet’s school schedule, we will made another date to do something together.  It will be fun.

I’m glad we had such a fun time, because Rob and I are taking Jake, Michaela (niece and nephew), and Patsy (daughter) on Monday.  We have a zoo pass, so want to use it as much as possible.  We are planning the trips so that everyone we take will get in on the pass, so we have to take a few at a time.  The other 3 were all in school today, so were feeling left out until I explained that we would go Monday and NOT take Ja’Ana and Alissa.  Just them.  The big girls are going to the beach with the youth group on Monday anyway.  So, it’s all good.  Tomorrow is Rob’s last day of school and then he’s out for the summer!  Yea, and double yea!!!  Let summer begin!

Birthday Tea Party

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Today was the first birthday party we are hosting this week.  Here’s how we made it simple, affordable, yet very nice.

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I started by giving Patsy a handful of invitations I had saved when we moved.  She wanted a small, special party so I have plenty from another occasion in my card bin.   We chose a day after school when I knew I would have plenty of time to get ready during that day.  She handed them out about a week and a half ago.  Although we asked for RSVP’s, we only got one firm one, and a couple of “iffy” ones.  So, we were not quite sure how many to expect.  Then, I dug around in the cupboards and pulled out fancy dishes.  These little luncheon tea plates are from garage sales and a junk store and I have had them for about 20-30 years.  There are a couple that match, but mostly they are different floral patterns.  I have 8 or 9, and got 4 chosen and washed and the others set aside in case we had any surprise guests that forgot to tell Patsy they were coming.

We are still quite new here, and had to also face the possibility that we would have only 1 girl, or even none if something prevented her from coming.  There was a lot of anxiety going around here this morning.  I was very proud of Patsy.  It’s hard to keep trying and trying in life when there are lots of changes, and so much history of disappointment in the past.  But, she was brave, and my prayers were answered.  In the end, 3 girls ended up being able to come.  They were delightful young ladies, and I enjoyed them very much.  Patsy was so happy.

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Alissa and Ja’Ana helped get ready this morning.  They also worked a bit on school.  They are almost done, and have very little to complete.  Alissa brought decorating supplies and worked on the cupcakes.

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She had frosted cupcakes I had baked and frozen last week.  She added the candies on top, and we picked and added violas to make it special.  We put Baby’s Breath on the fancy dish and…..gorgeous and special for pennies.

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I bought 1–$5 bunch of Baby’s Breath.  I used teapots I own, and roses and violas from the yard.  I put one bouquet on top of the piano and one on the table.

 

I used a tea cup and put one in the bathroom to take the elegance even further.  No extra money involved.IMG_4637

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We bought some fancy mints and candy from the bulk bins at Winco.  We used sugar cubes in the sugar bowl.  The girls were excited about the cubes.  They emptied half the bowl.

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Ja’Ana and Alissa worked on the chocolate and white chocolate-dipped strawberries.  I bought one carton of berries and a few melting chocolate disks from the bulk bins at Winco.  Alissa brought some red sugar to use as well to make them even prettier.

I worked on pickle rolls.  They are very simple.  You spread cream cheese onto lunchmeat and put a pickle on it, then roll up and cut into circles.  It is a family favorite at holiday times and Patsy wanted the treat for her birthday party.

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I worked on little sandwiches, too.  I cut white bread I got on sale for 69c for the loaf into circles with a biscuit cutter.  I threw away the edges.  If I was not gluten-free, I would have made crumbs from them, but we have no use for regular bread crumbs around here.  I just make and use gluten-free ones.

I used some of the circles for cream cheese/olive open faced sandwiches.  Then, I added 1/4 piece of turkey pepperoni on top.  I spread cream cheese, then placed 1 cucumber slice and a piece of dill on the rest.  I also made some egg salad sandwiches from whole pieces of bread.  I cut the crusts off  and cut into quarters.  I used fancy toothpicks for those.  I also made a veggie tray in a fancy dish.  Snow peas, the remaining slices of cucumbers, celery, carrots, and cherry tomatoes filled it nicely.

The last thing I served was zucchini chocolate chip bread, baked and frozen last week.  I also made 2 pots of tea.  I let them choose and they chose Chai and Peppermint.  That was easy enough, using my insta-hot on my sink.  We used 4 tea bags, total.

The girls visited for a bit.  They then proceeded to polish off almost ALL of the food on the table.  How gratifying!  I was very pleased that they were so verbally appreciative,  polite, and apparently very hungry!  Afterwards, they went outside and played croquet on the lawn until it was time to go home.

The items I made this food from were all inexpensive, common ingredients.  It was the fancy dishes, the flowers, and making all the food tiny, decorated and fancy that made the tea party seem special. I did as much of it ahead of time as I could, even freezing a couple of items last week. I shopped yesterday for the things I needed.   I washed dishes as I went, and then put all the fancy dishes away directly after the guests went home.  I cleaned the house first thing this morning and some more after lunch.  That is something that would just have to be re-done if I did it too far ahead:)

I made a list of food I wanted to serve on the whiteboard as I thought of it, and then used the list to shop and cook.  I bought dill and used it more than once to get the best use of my purchase.  I did the same with the Baby’s Breath.  I figure if I’m going to buy it, I want to use it a lot.

So, I’m very tired, but satisfied and happy.  Patsy had a great party, I did not break the bank, we DID have some girls come to the party and they had a great time, my house is clean, and I have bouquets of flowers to look at.  I should sleep well tonight.

 

 

 

What Do You Do With Bolting Boc Choi? Eat Lots of Boc Choi–FAST!

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Boc Choi loves short days.  Once the days begin to lengthen, it bolts.  So, the season ends up being pretty short by the time I can get seeds planted in my wet, wet area, get the plants to grow to a size we can eat, and then eat like crazy before it starts to bolt.  I don’t tend to plant very long rows, for those reasons.  We do enjoy it, though, and it’s nice to have a crop that likes to grow in cooler, shorter, rain-filled days so I grow some every early spring and occasionally do a fall crop.

The first way we eat it is in stir fries.  I use whatever vegetables I have on hand and usually splash in some gluten-free soy sauce.   I start with the firmest veggies, such as onions and carrots, then add things like celery, boc choi stems, mushrooms, bean sprouts, etc., if I have them.  The last thing I do is add the sliced leaves from the boc choi and then remove from heat when they are just wilted.   If the leaves are too bug-eaten, I just use the stems and whatever I can salvage.

Another thing I like to do with boc choi is to put it in chicken or turkey soup.

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Again, I chopped the stems up like celery and added them in when I made my soup.  I added the sliced leaves in at the last minute and just wilted them down.  There is not a strong flavor of  boc choi in there, but it adds a pleasant, mild flavor to the soup.

Another thing I made this week using boc choi was spaghetti sauce.  By today, I was completely out of celery, so I just chopped up some boc choi stems and sautéed them with a diced onion and some ground pork I needed to use.  I added Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.  Then I added 1 jar of purchased spaghetti sauce and 1 pint of home-canned tomato sauce.  I just let that simmer in the Crock Pot all day and we had it for supper.  Again, there was no strong boc choi flavor, but the sauce was very flavorful and delicious.  I feel that any time I’ve used it in something, it has taken on the flavor of the dish, and at the same time added flavor without being obnoxious or making anyone ask why it was there.  Mostly, they don’t even notice it at all, but thought the sauce tonight was really yummy.

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It made a really good birthday dinner for Patsy, who turned 13 today.  I made salad from garden lettuce and a double chocolate loaf cake.  I hadn’t made that cake for many years, and never gluten free.  I only made one modification in the recipe I had used years ago, and Bob’s Red Mill One-To-One flour.  It turned out great.

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Valentine’s Day and a Birthday

Yesterday, we did Home Economics. 2 cakes were made.  First, as a group, we mixed up a double batch of Gluten-free sour cream chocolate cake batter.  The girls cut out waxed paper to fit into the bottom of the pans and then sprayed them with non-stick spray.  The cake layers were baked.  They came out of the pans easily with the waxed paper liner.

After they were cooled, they frosted them with chocolate buttercream frosting and decorated them however they wanted with the supplies they could find in the garage.  They did great!

Ja’Ana’s cake was for her dad, for Valentine’s Day.

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Alissa’s cake was for her mom (the G is for Gail) for her birthday, which is the day after Valentine’s Day.

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I was amazed at how nice they looked!  Of course, we are all helping Rob eat his, and it tastes great!  We even got about 6 or 8 cupcakes as well from the leftover batter.  It made a lot.

We went down to the farm store and bought some flowers and some potting soil.  We used a pot I had, and the girls planted flowers in it as a birthday gift from all of us.  They chose the colors carefully and it turned out great.  They also got a flower for my aunt (their great aunt), and some chocolates for Grandma.  Last evening, Alissa babysat her siblings so her parents could go out for dinner for Valentine’s and got up super early to give her mom breakfast in bed for her birthday.

It was a gorgeous day, and I love how we spent it.

How I Get a Layer Cake Out of the Pan

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The only time I make layer cakes is for birthdays, and that is only when the birthday person wants cake.  I may make other desserts, if wanted.  When I do make cake, I want it to come out of the pan easily. I’ve had a lot of trouble with that in the past. Here’s how I do it now.

First, I trace around the pan, using waxed paper and a pencil.  I cut out the circles I traced.

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I spray the pans with Pam spray, and stick down the waxed paper circles, and then spray the pans again, over the waxed paper, and along the sides.

The recipe I made this time was a chocolate cake recipe from a cookbook Lovana has, named “A Passion for Baking” and I just substituted an equal amount of Bob’s Red Mill One-to-One flour for the all-purpose.  This recipe has sour cream in it, and seems to stay moist, but does not goo up or fall apart. Every recipe does not translate into gluten-free as nicely as this one.

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After cooling for a few minutes, it is very easy to invert the pans onto a wire rack and the cake falls out easily.  If needed, I run a knife around the edges to loosen them, but the waxed paper keeps the bottom from sticking.  Then, the paper is peeled off and the cake is flipped right side up on another cooling rack.

These 2 layers were frozen as soon as we realized that the planned birthday dinner for my sister had been cancelled due to an ill child.  No use spreading that love around.  We will do it next Sunday.  I was very thankful I had not frosted them yet, they will keep better unfrosted. When I do frost it, I will make a cocoa powder, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla and milk frosting.  I’m already looking forward to next Sunday.  Yum!

A Simple Birthday Party

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We had such a fun birthday party Sunday!  Alissa, Jake, and Rob always have a party together.  He and Alissa have celebrated together for the last 15 years.  They have had parties at homes, in Seaside, Oregon, and at pizza parlors and arcades. This year, my sister offered to host the party at her house.   This simple paper plate sign was a product of Alissa, I believe.  My brother-in-law set the tables with paper plates with a bowl on top and silverware over brightly colored tablecloths.  Rob and I got to her house an hour before she did on Sunday after church and helped organize the parts and pieces and set everything out.  Other family members joined us as soon as they could get there from their churches.

Everyone brought food.  Potato soup, turkey rice soup, French Dip Au Jus, Make-your-own sub sandwiches and French Dips, fruit, veggies, and a cake from Safeway.

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Alissa picked out a cake that little brother would love, and he did!  She and Uncle Rob got to share it.  He couldn’t wait for the little car that was on top.

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After the candles were blown out, the birthday boys and girl got some presents.  It was a simple, but extremely fun afternoon.  We can’t believe Alissa is 15 now, and Jake is 8.  Rob–well, we can’t believe that either, but I’ll leave the details sketchy on that score.  We are so thankful for these precious children that we have been privileged to have in our lives.   I have 2 sisters.  Between the 3 of us, we have 14 children.  11 are adopted.   So, you could safely say we have chosen to have a lot of birthday parties.  We do not take children for granted.   They have all brought immense blessings to us, each in their own way.  We were delighted that our son who has Asperger’s Syndrome agreed to come to this party.  He is sometimes so much in his own world that he prefers not to attend gatherings.  We enjoyed his company on Sunday.  He had a good time, but was ready for Rob to take him home by mid-afternoon.