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Happy Birthday to ME!

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn't take photos when I was up.

This is my parents at Thanksgiving. Silly me didn’t take photos when I was up.

I’ve maintained for some time now that the older I get the longer I get to celebrate.  This year I’m pushing that edge with everything I’ve got.   I’ve got a lot to celebrate!

I feel good.  There have been many years where I haven’t.  Two years ago I was recovering from surgery.  Five years ago I couldn’t move.  25 years ago (or was it 26) my birthday party felt like a wake because I was in chemotherapy.  Feeling good, willing to go out, having fun finding dress-up clothes, those are all worth celebrating.

I still have family.  I started celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month when I made a cake and packed it up to my parent’s house.  My Mom and I share a fondness for german chocolate and a homemade cake is particularly appreciated by both of us.  At this point neither of us needs a cake to ourselves so we share.  Her birthday is in December and mine is the end of February so there is usually a freezer involved along the way.  Having her around to share and appreciate the cake she taught me to make is definitely worth celebrating.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

Karina, Orion, and Dakota took me out for restaurant week.

My kids seem to like spending time with me.  I got Orion buying me flowers for valentine’s day and Karina’s “step-son” picking out roses for Oma’s birthday.  We all went out to dinner (restaurant week falls close enough to my birthday to make that easier).  Karina has also just said “hey, want to go out for drinks” and swept me up late night just because it’s my birthday.  Orion and I have been to the movies, twice, and he’s also joined me out to brunch with friends.  All worth celebrating.

My friends are finding time to “catch-up”  I’ve had three brunches this month.  I’ve had lunch and a trip to the Swedish Museum.  I’ve had dinner with some old friends, and am still making plans into March.  I’ve spent a lot of time on the telephone.  Birthday presents have appeared unexpectedly.  I have acquired a significant amount of birthday cheesecake.  It’s really nice to know that people I care about are thinking about me.  It’s great to touch base and reconnect.  I’m not good at reaching out so having people reach out to me is very much worth celebrating.

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

The Swedish Institute is beautiful and the immigrant and refugee exhibits were powerful!

I know that extending my birthday celebration means sometimes I decide it’s about me when really it’s not.  Today (Monday 27th) I’m having “birthday breakfast” at Gilda’s Club.  It’s really the monthly “Euro-Cafe Social”, but hey for me it’s birthday breakfast.  I’ll get to visit with people I work with and when I call it birthday breakfast they’ll all say happy birthday.

It feels good to be acknowledged and it gives me a lot of reason to be grateful.  I have places to go, things to do and people to do them with.  I have generous friends and family.  I have enough energy to go out and enough control to bring home leftovers.   Extending the celebration means I get to really spend time with people rather than being overwhelmed by a crowd at one big bash.  I am truly blessed.

Happy birthday to me.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn't have to make it so no complaints.

Birthday cheesecake from a friend. I didn’t have to make it so no complaints.

 

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Happy Birthday to ME!

Karina gets creative with her camera

Karina gets creative with her camera

For someone who’s trying to recover from a major surgery I’ve been awfully busy.  It’s hard not to celebrate a birthday, even when you’re not feeling entirely up to it.  This is my first birthday since the bariatric surgery, and my birthdays have historically been about food.

Raw oyster shells are prettier and yummy.  A sampler one from the east coast and one from the west

Raw oyster shells are prettier and yummy. A sampler one from the east coast and one from the west

When we were kids one of the things we got for our birthday was the opportunity to choose the menu.  We didn’t go out to eat a lot as a family, but my parents cooked.  Favorites ran the gamut, but I discovered seafood early and stuck with it.

More oysters - Rockefeller (her favorite) and a "Crab Cake" that's more crab than cake!

More oysters – Rockefeller (her favorite) and a “Crab Cake” that’s more crab than cake!

This year has been a challenge in many ways.  The hysterectomy has me moving slower, not getting around easily and pretty achy.  In addition, just having the surgery has decreased my food tolerance and portions.  That’s kind of normal, except given that I was already working on tolerance and portions it seems a little extreme.

Beautiful lobster bisque - this counts as a main course for me.

Beautiful lobster bisque – this counts as a main course for me.

Of course where there is a will there is often a way!  My dreams of baking myself a cake to take to a party, or making myself a special dinner were very unrealistic.  I’m not that far along in my recovery.  But I have friends and family who managed to keep me eating all weekend long.

The main dish off the Restaurant week menu was a mahimahi on dirty rice with a pineapple glaze.  Karina devoured it.  I had a bite.

The main dish off the Restaurant week menu was a mahimahi on dirty rice with a pineapple glaze. Karina devoured it. I had a bite.

Thursday my daughter took me out to Oceanaire for birthday dinner.  We ordered one Restaurant Week meal, a couple extra appetizers and a cup of lobster bisque and shared it out.   Beautiful food, well prepared, very tasty and oh so very much to eat!  I may not have had much (and took home leftovers) but I was more than satisfied and had a delightful evening besides.

The waitress brought our forks first.   This is what desert looked like when it occurred to us to take a photo.

The waitress brought our forks first. This is what desert looked like when it occurred to us to take a photo.

Saturday I was taken out for sashimi by my ex and my son.   That was also a treat.  Again we managed to shuffle the meals around so that everyone got something they liked and there wasn’t too much extra.  I had time enough for a nap before going out again that evening with friends.

This is what the "death by chocolate cake" with a dark cherry vanilla ice cream looked like in the kitchen.

This is what the “death by chocolate cake” with a dark cherry vanilla ice cream looked like in the kitchen.

That wasn’t specifically for my birthday and much of the “pot-luck” was vegan, but it was good to see some old friends and catch up.  I brought a bag of clementines – not something I would buy for just me.  I can eat a couple of segments at a time.  It was a treat and definitely qualified as a vegan dish.

Sunday was our annual women’s ritual.  Again the food was lovely and in huge quantities.  I did manage to “cook” Tzatziki  to go with my frozen appetizer spanakopita from Trader Joe’s.   There were ribs, meatballs, and spiced nuts,  liver pate,  stuffed clams and scallops, and hummus, olives, and a variety of cheeses.  I definitely needed a nap!   The liver pate came especially for me to help with that anemia problem.  Yummy!

Lunch with Orion was good too.  But not quite so dramatic.

Lunch with Orion was good too. But not quite so dramatic.

I have so much to be grateful for this year.  The hysterectomy took care of the cancer – no chemo or radiation necessary.  I have had incredible support from my friends and family to get through these past few weeks.  I may be grumpy I’m not improving fast enough, but I do continue to be able to do a little more each day. I’m also reassured that I really am doing well, I’m just impatient.   And I have some great leftovers to help me through the coming week!

Happy Birthday

Not quite a birthday cake from Campiello

Not quite a birthday cake from Campiello

My birthday was February 28th.  I’ve always maintained that the older you are, the longer you get to celebrate.  So, even though I started early and am past the actual date I’m not quite done yet.  Birthday dinners were a big thing in my family.  Regular readers will hardly be surprised by this statement.  The deal was that although we couldn’t afford fancy dinners out, Mom and Dad were willing to cook whatever we wanted.

Being blessed with a birthday timed to hit all the post Valentines Day seafood sales I was indulged.   I developed a fondness for crustaceans early and never let up. I also happen to have a birthday perfectly timed for Restaurant Week.  It’s slow this time of year so Monday-Friday participating restaurants offer a pre-set menu of typical fare at significantly reduced prices.   It’s a great way to try out new restaurants, and a good excuse to get folks to take me out.

Orion and Karina at Fogo de Chao.

Orion and Karina at Fogo de Chao.

On my actual birthday I stayed in and cooked.  I was thinking about ordering pizza, but Orion wanted steak so I went for it.  But in another “good timing” gig, our celebration for the Goddess Lucina happens to fall on the first Sunday of March and that’s also a food rich event.

I have eaten out A LOT celebrating my birthday.  So far I’ve had:

Picking up Orion at my folks they made me birthday dinner of sea scallops in wine sauce with pesto linguine.  The recipes aren’t as full of butter as they used to be, but still very tasty.

The gauchos slice meat off the skewers.

The gauchos slice meat off the skewers.

Dinner at Fogo de Chao  with Karina and courtesy of Orion: including smoked salmon, cheeses, and asparagus from the salad bar and about 17 different preparations of chicken, sausage, lamb and beef.  The best cut of meat hands down was the special Brazillian cut.  Desserts were a definitive Brazillian flan, a molten chocolate cake, and a turtle cheesecake.  Orion sang me Happy Birthday in Portuguese.

Lunch with Judy: produced homemade rye bread fresh out of the oven along with roasted cauliflower and a lovely mushroom and sausage quiche.

Dinner at Campiello with my 50+ women’s meet-up group:  I had meatballs in the house marinara with fried basil leaves, fresh butternut squash ravioli in browned butter and a baked chocolate mouse cake with salted carmel gelato and caramelized peanuts.  The food was excellent, the company a lot of fun and the service exquisite.  They handled a bunch of rowdy women like pros.  The staff answered all our questions (even the ones about other restaurants) and accommodated our dietary quirks.  A really fun evening (and how I really spent my birthday money).

meatballs and prosecco at Campiello

meatballs and prosecco at Campiello

Dining in with Orion: I made fillet minion, which I cut off the tenderloin and wrapped in nitrate free hand sliced bacon from the coop.  I paired it with roasted asparagus sprinkled with parmesan and a baked potato.  Not too difficult and very satisfying.

Dinner at Piccolo with Karina:  Karina and I have established a history of fine dining and conversation about the details of the food we eat.  We’ve dished dinners all over town, in New York City, in Washington D.C., in Florida, on cruise ships and anywhere else we’ve traveled.  I started her early (she was maybe 5 on that cruise).  When we talk about our separate vacations the conversation usually revolves around the food we tried.  It’s hereditary.  My Mom’s travel logs all detail our vacation dining as well.

We had the tasting menu, starting out with a lengthy debate about who was going to get what.  Clearly we needed to avoid duplication and taste everything!  Our waiter stepped in and answered questions about how the food was prepared.  Karina stuck her head into the kitchen a few times to watch them prep and ask questions there as well.  Piccolos focuses on locally sourced food, lots of small bites and beautiful presentation.  We were in foodie heaven.

Piccolo's menu the day we went.  Karina ordered K's I ordered L's and we shared.

Piccolo’s menu the day we went. Karina ordered K’s I ordered L’s and we shared.

Piccolos is actually a small little neighborhood kind of venue.  The decor features stacks of books about food.  I noted the coffee table book on Olives in the bathroom and the Oxford Guides to Food and Wine.  The cookbook that we snuck to the table was an Italian cookbook by a local author, The Italian Country Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper with post-it notes stuck all through it commenting on the recipes.  The waiter thought she’d probably left it visiting the owners previous restaurant.  Clearly it remains a favorite.  It kept us entertained between courses and now I have to go find a copy!  (Karina wants one too.)

first bites at Piccolo

first bites at Piccolo

At Piccolo Karina caught me setting up a taste for her.

At Piccolo Karina caught me setting up a taste for her.

Lucina's Day ritual and "snacks"

Lucina’s Day ritual and “snacks”

Lucina’s Day brunch is set up as a pile of finger food and conversation among the women followed by dinner with the families.  The ladies I celebrate with cook so it’s always a treat.  I brought wine and pesto stuffed mushrooms.  We also had olives, pita, dried oranges, lots of cheeses, dolmades, figs, chocolate and orange cakes, nuts.   Perfect food to chat over.  Dinner added beef ribs and chicken and brie stuffed mushrooms.  Stuffed was the word of the day.

Maybe this week I’ll get around to making myself a cake.

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