Birthday boy

We've had some celebrating around here lately. Kent's actual birthday on Thursday was celebrated with a breakfast at Waffle House before Jack went to work, then a fun day with Grandma and Grandpa, and Jack coming home two hours early from work since the next day was a holiday. We had a nice afternoon, making mocha chip ice cream for Kent's party on Saturday and spending a while opening presents and cards (some of the cat-related stuff is seen here), and then we introduced Jack's parents to spring rolls, Nikki's contribution to my cooking repertoire, for dinner.

Friday was largely spent doing shopping and cleaning for the party, and I also used Friday morning to bake and decorate Kent's cake, since I definitely didn't want to be trying to do that the morning of the party. I didn't snap any photos, but I know Ron did, so I'll hound him for pics and see about posting one here later. It had a cute little cat face on it, and I was pretty proud of how it turned out. The cake recipe was the red regal chocolate cake my grandmother always made for my dad and uncle when they were kids, and I used a chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe from Joy of Cooking. The recipe calls for three layers, but I put all the batter into only two layers, because three pans wouldn't fit well in our oven and I wanted to make sure the cake would bake evenly.

Saturday morning: party frenzy. It wasn't too bad, actually, because I decided to do a taco bar for lunch and the ingredients were fairly easy to put together. We went to the farmer's market to get tomatoes for salsa and some other veggies for the week, then came home, put Kent down for a long morning nap, and finished getting everything ready for the party. I was making chicken and shrimp to go in the tacos, so I marinated those and directed my eager sous chefs to peel the shrimp, chop tomatoes, mash avocados, make rice and beans (Ann's delicious Haitian-style stuff), put everything in bowls, etc., while I cooked the chicken and shrimp and generally ordered people around. I hope I was nice about it. It was great to have Jack's parents here for a lot of reasons, but they were also really helpful in party prep. I'd recommend them to anyone looking to hire a small crew… hehehe. I'm not sure that Jack and I could have pulled it off by ourselves. It was also very helpful of Kent to take a long morning nap. We actually had to wake him up a little after 12 when the first guests arrived.

I was so happy with the food (a huge deal for me and my chef pseudo-aspirations), and the taco bar made it easy for people to pick and choose what they wanted. The guest list was a comfortable size of 14 in all; we fit in a big circle in our living room, and my friend John's kids (ages 4 years and 7 months) seemed to have a pretty good time as well, except that his four-year-old daughter is deathly afraid of cats so didn't enjoy it when Celia came out to sniff around the party. The cake was fun, fairly easy because I made it on Friday, and impressive to everyone at the party who wasn't expecting a homemade cake and homemade frosting. Baking from scratch makes such a difference in taste, and I like to avoid processed food when I can, so I usually don't consider using store-bought mixes or frosting unless I'm desperate.

I'd decided this past week to save myself some stress and not to do a bunch of decorations, so I just stuck with the birthday banner that I sewed last week, another idea from The Creative Family. Going through fabrics from my stash to make this colorful banner reminded me of all the quilts and other things my grandmother and I have sewn, as well as the other beautiful, old fabrics I was lucky enough to get from her. I just made a template out of corrugated cardboard, cut each triangle with the rotary cutter and then went back over them with pinking shears so they wouldn't unravel, then sewed them along the top and bottom edges onto an 18-foot piece of ribbon. We'll be using this for all our family birthdays, and perhaps I'll have other crafty inspirations for reusable birthday decorations in the coming years.

After presents, we sang and had cake, gave Kent his own piece of cake in the high chair, and watched him pick it apart and cram big pieces in his mouth. He never got super messy, but he was crumby and sticky enough that he got a good washing in the sink and a new wardrobe for the end of the party.

I think he had a good time. He didn't get as overwhelmed by all the people as I thought he would; he's in that stranger anxiety stage so much that he doesn't like to let his grandparents hold him, so I wasn't sure what he'd do in the midst of a room full of big people. He played with some toys, sat on our laps, crawled a bit, had some good cake, and generally stayed happy and sociable the whole time. I can't ask for much better than a bunch of cat loot, good food, happy guests, and a happy boy.

All that being said, though, I'm glad we have a year to recover before the next birthday.

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Sorry we couldn't make the party, sounds like it was a smashing success! Happy Birthday Kent!
The weekend o' birthday celebrations sounds wonderful, I wish we could have been there! I will look forward to seeing pictures. I *love* your banner - it is so pretty and personalized, and I love the idea that it will be at all celebrations throughout the years. Much love to ya! :-)
Can you be my mom? Kent is so lucky. That looks like a lot of fun, I wish we could have been there.
We had a great time. I really loved the cake and ice cream. Can you give me the recipe? Since I am not much of a cook (or baker), I am trying to venture into the world of cooking...easy recipes though. Thanks again for inviting us!!!
I love the birthday banner idea. It so fun to have something that you use every year. Just Friday I bought a "birthday cup" for our family. Anna's is Tuesday, and I wanted to start a new tradition. I actually was buying cups with their names on them, and saw a "Happy Birthday" cup with a picture of a cake on it, and decided to get that, too. It should be fun. However, I did not hand craft it or anything. Maybe next time I'll have to throw the pottery, paint it and put it in a kiln... Just kidding. I wish I was as crafty as you, though.
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