Birthday Blog Hijacking II

Last year, I hijacked Bill’s blog to celebrate his birthday. This year, I’ve done it again, but with a different assignment:

This coming Sunday, Bill turns 41. He won’t wake up in a soft bed next to his wife. His kids won’t charge in with homemade birthday cards. He won’t have good home cooking catered to his personal taste. He won’t go to Mass, and he won’t kick back with a nice cold brew on a hot summer afternoon.

But we can do all those things. So, sometime in the next week, have a drink and toast Bill and all the other soldiers who are away from home. Say a prayer for his safety, and for my sanity. And leave a note {at his blog} (it will go to his email) telling him exactly what drink you’re having in his honor. He prefers beer, but it can be whatever you like, even ice cold lemonade.

You can leave a comment on his blog, or you can leave it here. He’ll get them either way.

Thanks!

Adding Lysol to the shopping list

Today was a crappy day. Literally.

First, the dog went to the bathroom on the treadmill. This is not the first time. The first time, I felt bad for her. The second time, I felt bad for me. A friend called while I was in the middle of cleaning it up that second time and asked me how my day was going. When I told her what I was doing, she laughed excessively and thanked me for making her feel better. No matter how bad her day was, at least she wasn’t sanitizing her treadmill. I was so glad to provide such a day-brightening service for her.

This was the third time, and I did take her out before putting her on the treadmill, and she went. Then she loitered. I should have known she was loitering with a purpose. My 4 year old does the exact same thing. But I hustled her in, and then later paid for my impatience.

About an hour later, I heard Mary up from her nap, but she wasn’t calling to be rescued. Now I know, I know, I know that if a toddler plays happily in her crib after awakening from a good, long nap, it is a sure sign that she has a stinky diaper. Guaranteed. I’ve been dealing with toddlers for a decade now, and this is just the way it is.

But I was trying to get everybody organized and out the door for errands, and was just thankful she didn’t need my attention while I took care of things. When I finally told everybody to “Saddle up!” I went in to get her. Oh. My.

If I ever have grandchildren, I will hand back stinky babies to their parents.

And I will not own pets.

I’m pooped. Literally.

Real Food: Part II The Cake

When I was planning my wedding, I happened to be alone with the caterer to make the final selections on the food, etc. Bill and I had, of course, discussed everything, we thought, in advance. But somehow I was unclear what his wishes were for the cake flavor (the design we discussed, but not the flavor). At the time, I didn’t know much about cakes, and looked at the list of at least a dozen different combinations. I finally settled on one that included Grand Marnier as an ingredient. I don’t think I really knew what Grand Marnier was, but it sounded really grown-up.

“Unusual selection,” said the woman.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. I, myself, am an “unusual selection” sort of person. My husband is definitely not. My husband is a “traditional selection” sort of person. But I went with it anyway, and hoped for the best.

The cake was delicious.

Fast forward a dozen years, and I find a recipe in The Fannie Farmer Baking Book for a wedding cake that includes Grand Marnier. (If you do not own this baking book, I highly recommend it. It is to baking what Joy of Cooking is to cooking.) I resolved to make this cake for the next special occasion to see if it was anything like my wedding cake. But every special occasion (baby’s baptism, baby’s first birthday, child’s First Holy Communion) came at times that were stressful enough to not need to add elaborate cake baking to the mix. I am not a fabulous baker, especially not of cakes and pies (cookies, no problem). So when push came to shove, I just went with a box mix.

Fast forward again to last April and planning for Katie’s First Holy Communion. My friend, who came for birthday dinner last weekend (see Real Food: Part I), decided to join the celebration of her daughter’s First Holy Communion with mine. In divvying up responsibilities, she said she would make the cake. I told her about The Recipe and how I had wanted to make it for baptisms and how I wanted to make it for First Birthdays and how I wanted to make it for First Holy Communions. She didn’t get that I had wanted to, but that I, in fact, had not.

She agreed to make the special cake.
The afternoon before the First Holy Communion, she called and asked me a question about the icing on the cake. “I don’t know,” I answered, “I’ve never made the cake before.”
“What?!?” she spluttered. “I thought this was The Reitemeyer Family Traditional Cake used for your wedding and all special occasions!” I laughed, cleared up the misunderstanding, and assured her any substitutions she felt necessary would be acceptable.
The next day we all told her that it tasted exactly like The Reitemeyer Family Traditional Cake.
Her cake was delicious, and she had used the recipe for the batter. But she did not: split the layers in half, sprinkle one side with Grand Marnier and the other side with orange flower water, or use the orange butter cream filling suggested. It really is an elaborate recipe.
Fast forward to last week when my friend and I decided to celebrate her birthday here. “What kind of cake would you like?” I asked her.
“I want The Reitemeyer Family Traditional Cake,” she teased.

Well, okay then. I even went online and ordered orange flower water since I am 100% sure that the local grocery stores would carry no such thing.

I wrapped the batter filled pans with wet toweling to keep them flat when they bake. This is an excellent trick, and I’ve saved that old cut up dish towel to do this whenever I bake a cake.
I split the baked layers in half and sprinkled them. I made the orange butter cream frosting and filled the layers. I did substitute White Mountain Frosting for the Seven Minute Frosting because I don’t have a hand mixer (you’ll have to get the book if you want the recipes).
The result: interesting. Did I mention I’m not a fabulous cake baker? It’s a good thing I have many years to practice baking before any of my children get married and ask for The Traditional Cake.

I will try this recipe again. The flavor was quite good, and very sophisticated. Very grown-up. Definitely a special occasion flavor. I liked the Grand Marnier. The orange water is very distinctive, very noticeable. It was okay. I’d like to try it without to see if I prefer that more.

The biggest change I need to make is in the butter cream frosting. I made the entire recipe which is designed to fill a wedding cake three times the size. I really like butter cream frosting, but it is one of those things where more is not better. The filling was way too thick and made the cake too too buttery. It was like eating a stick of butter with a little cake on the side. Some people like that, but I don’t.

I would also like to try the Seven Minute Frosting to see if it tastes much different.

Lastly, I much prefer lemon to orange flavor, so I would try it with the lemon flavored butter cream frosting, omitting the Grand Marnier (which is orange flavored). The cake batter yields a dense, moist cake which is well suited to other fillings (my friend used jam for the First Holy Communion party).

So there is my long cake story. By the time I am a grandmother, I plan to be a skilled baker. They will never believe all these years of trial and much error.

DIY tax evasion

The rebel in me loves this story: Do-It-Yourself Cigarettes? Virginia Smokers Start Growing Tobacco

“Cigarette smokers say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to die of cancer, but do we have to die of poverty as well?”‘ said Jack Basharan, who operates The Tobacco Seed Co. Ltd. in Essex, England.

Oh, I just love it when the common man finds yet another way to stick it to the tax and wastefully spend government.

Besides, home-grown tobacco is surely the organic, healthier choice.

Time

I’ve noticed that evening comes earlier now. Rocking the baby to bed at 830 pm, it seems to be pretty dark out. These steaming days of late August will carry on into September as usual, but they are but the opening notes of Summer’s grand finale.

I welcome autumn. I won’t miss the humidity, or the mosquitoes. I won’t miss the stress of taking non-swimmers to the pool. I won’t miss these “relaxing” days of summer that, frankly, this summer, were not.

Maybe I just don’t know how to relax. Maybe I just can’t relax without my husband here to take care of all the worrying and fussing and the what-ifs.

At the grocery store yesterday, Katie had a non sequitor question: “Mommy, is it almost time for Halloween?” I told her no.

“Then why is all the Halloween candy out?” And I looked up from trying to keep Mary pinned to the seat while selecting bagels and checking my list and reminding myself not to forget the half-and-half which I did later, after all, forget. Sure enough, the seasonal display had heaps of orange and black wrapped treats.

“They do it to drive mothers nuts,” said a smiling woman pushing her own child-filled cart in passing. I then lost myself in thoughts of how brilliant these marketers were to put the candy out early, so you buy it so you don’t have to think about it any more, then you eat it, or you forget that you bought it, and you buy more – genius! I almost missed her second line, which I heard with perfect Doppler Effect:

“They’ll have the Christmas candy out before you know it.”

Oh, I hope so. More than I welcome the cool days of fall and the beauty of changing leaves and the comfort of a school routine and the return to hot food to warm chilly bodies, I long for the approach of winter and the return of my husband. May the days fly by.

He left seven weeks ago today. We have 19 more to go. It’s not that long; we’ve survived worse, I keep reminding myself. Not too long ago, seven weeks seemed like an eternity. Now, it seems like nothing compared to what I have left to do. In twelve weeks, seven weeks will again, likely, seem like an eternity.

But it will come. And then I will hope once more for time to stand still.

Check it out

The best jobs are when somebody pays you to do something you do for free most of the time anyway.

Maybe I shouldn’t admit that?

P.S. That photo is my second oldest son hugging my husband when he returned home from his year long deployment in 2004. Bill’s friend came with him for our private reunion just so he could take pictures for us. It was another 10 days or more before the friend got to see his family.