Birthday Girl’s Weekend– Santa Barbara!!

Hello friends– Do you have fall birthdays to celebrate in your family?? We have a big one– Maryann turned 10!!  So last weekend we trekked up to Santa Barbara for her “ten year old birthday trip.”  Let me tell you, it’s big fun to have all that time to ourselves with our bright spunky girl!

We started out referring to our Birthday Fun Map–  First stop was the Moxi Museum for kids.  Maryann was in her element.  Hands on exhibits using light, art, sound, movement.


Then we were off on the Little Toot tugboat tour of the harbor– the Captain even gave Maryann a turn at the wheel!

We made a Sunday morning stop at the Santa Barbara Mission–founded 1786.

Then dropped in to stroll through the lush Santa Barbara Zoo.


We picked out our favorite pieces at the SB Art Museum– and puzzled over a few we were unfamiliar with.

And we rounded out our day with a tour through the historic courthouse– up the tower for views across Santa Barbara.


The sun was about to set when we headed back to deliver Maryann home.

We’re so thankful for days exploring with this sweet girl.  Happy Birthday 10 year old Maryann!!  Here’s to a great year ahead!

“When I’m 64!!”

My mom knew how to throw a rollicking birthday party back in the 1960’s!!  

Hi friends– Birthdays.  How do they keep coming around so often??  These days the lyrics to “When I’m 64” keep running through my head (You have to be old enough to be a Beatles listener to know that one!).  So Sunday Larry grilled up a tri tip lunch for the family and then we headed over to Yogurtland for yogurt & cupcakes (thanks to some sprinkle happy grand-girls for the cupcakes!!)  It was a fun, noisy celebration of another year.

And when birthdays do roll around, it’s a reminder to think through the year ahead.  We have good one coming, I think.  I’m retiring in 12 days!  Our Ani & Brian are expecting their first little one coming up!  And Laurel & that John just called yesterday to say they are engaged!!  (please excuse the excess of exclamation points.)  So even though I’m a little more creaky and  worn around the edges, I’m happily hopeful for the year ahead…

And here’s my Year 64 Plan:
#1.  Find the joy in all these big things, and in little things in my days.
#2.  Start checking things off my “50 Things to do When I Retire List!””
#3.  Buy less things.
#4.  Spend more time taking care of people.
#5.  Be more prayerful (thank you LeAnn, for your encouragement in this).
#6.  Set my heart on what is real and true and eternal.

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I’m on my way to 65 and it looks just fine ahead.  I’m so grateful.  God is good.

Another Birthday or One Wild & Precious Life

Jodi’s photo of grand-girls and their grandma celebrating at the yogurt shop.  

Hi there blog buddies–  Just read this:

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
— Mary Oliver (Pulitzer prize winning poet).*

It’s the time of year that questions like this one come to mind– Passed another birthday this week and it sets me to thinking.  And also birthdays are an excuse for some grand fun-

My fun friend, Jill, packed the  fanciest picnic lunch for my 40 minute lunch break from school,  Larry and I celebrated at an Angel game (and got caught on the jumbo-torn by the “kiss cam!”).  There was happy birthday yogurt with the grand-girls and guilty pleasure hamburgers out with our folks, a couple sweet surprises left on our front porch (Who, oh who, left the Chinese cookies?)…

But there’s been time to think as well.  At 63 (yikes! 63?!), you know that your days ahead are numbered.  It’s a chance to be more intentional, to review how you’re spending those days and to ask how you really do want to spend this “wild and precious life.”

I have some ideas– mostly involving more time with people I love, cooking for friends, reading with grand-girls, talk with our kids.  And by now in life, I’m finally learning to rest, really rest in the tender, eternal love of God– so is precious to me.  God is good.

*Read that quote in Falling Upward, a book my friend Fran passed on to me (thanks Fran!)– and it really caught my attention.

Triple Chocolate Cake

IMG_3613Hello all– My mom turned 82 last week.  You’d never know to watch her run around town.  She has a knack for taking care of people, for knowing how to really help and getting things done.  Amazing lady…   So we had a little family birthday dinner for that mom of ours.  And, of course we finished it off with cake, a great big birthday kind of cake.  Here it is:

1 dark chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
canola oil
1 cup mini chocolate chips
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 pound box powdered sugar
1/2 cup cream
2 tab. butter
1 1/3 cup chocolate chips (8 oz.)

Make the cake according to the directions on the box using the eggs and oil.  Bake it in two round cake pans.

When the cakes are cooled, mix up the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar with an electric mixer.  When it’s smooth and silky, spread it between the two layers and cover the cake with frosting.

Then in a saucepan, bring the cream and 2 tab. butter to a simmer.  Take it off the heat and mix in the chocolate chips until they all melt.  Continue beating with a spoon for 2 or 3 minutes until the chocolate is smooth and shiny.  Let it cool to room temperature and drizzle it over the cake.

And if it’s a birthday, don’t forget the sprinkles and candles!  Happy Birthday Mom!!

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photos:  Party supplies waiting on the hutch for the birthday bash…   Mom ready to blow out her birthday candles with my brothers, Mark & Brad and me. ..  Ice cream and cake–birthday on a plate!

Basic (but delicious) Lasagna

IMG_0996Hi there–  Well, you probably have made lasagna more times than you can count.  But I just wanted to include a good basic recipe to work from here.  Made it for my father-in-law Stu’s birthday dinner.  There’s no one more fun to cook for than Stu.  He never fails to go on about how scrumptious dinner is, no matter how plain or fancy.  And lasagna is a favorite of his.  He orders it every time he and Helen go for the early bird special at their favorite Italian place.  So Happy Birthday Stu!!  You’re the best father-in-law a girl could have!!

1 package Barilla no cook lasagna noodles
1 pound Italian sausage
4 tab. olive oil, divided
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, grated
4 tsp. dried basil, divided
2 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
16 oz. mozzarella, grated
15 oz. carton ricotta cheese
2 eggs
3/4 cup parmesan reggiano, divided

Take the ground Italian sausage out of it’s casing (skin) and drop it into a hot pan coated with 2 tablespoons of olive oil along with 1 of the chopped onions.  Cook thoroughly, chopping at the meat until it browned and in fine pieces.

Then in another pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and add in the remaining chopped onion.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Then stir in the garlic and grated carrots and cook 5 minutes more.  Then stir in 3 teaspoons of the basil and the crushed tomatoes.  Season with salt & pepper until tastes just right.  Then stir the Italian Sausage and onion into the marinara sauce.

Mix the ricotta with the two eggs, the remaining teaspoon of basil and 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese.   Grate the mozzarella.

Now it’s time to layer it all up!  Spread a thin layer of the marinara sauce in the bottom of the largest 9″x13″ pan* that you have.  Then set in the sheets of dry Barilla lasagna pasta to cover the bottom of the pan.  On top of that layer of pasta, spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture,  1/3 of the tomato-meat sauce and then 1/3 of the mozzarella.  Then do two more layers just the same way.  Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of parmesan.  Cover the lasagna with foil– be sure it is loose enough to not touch the cheese on top.  And bake it all up in a 375 degree oven for 40 minutes. Then take off the foil and cook for 10 minutes more.  Enjoy all that hot cheesy, noodle-y, tomato-y flavor!  Hope you like it as much as Stu does!

IMG_1001*The 9″x13″ pan I have was not quite big enough– so I can make an extra small lasagna with this much ingredients in a loaf pan and have extra to give a meal to a friend…

Happy Birthday to you Stu!!
You’re the Best!!

Happy Birthday Butterfly

Our Maryann picking a fistful of “donkey tails” to take upstairs to her mom.

Hooray! Our grand-girl Maryann turned 4 this week!! Although, she’s been claiming to be 4 all summer.  She’s a puzzle working, book scanning, question asking kind of girl and I couldn’t love her more!  Recently she decided that She and her sister Charlotte should be called Butterfly and Pumpkin Pie.  Hmmm, that has a lilting  sort of rhyme to it.  I’m praying for you little Maryann, for a year ahead to grow and flourish with all your 4 year old ways in far off Shanghai.  So HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUTTERFLY!!  Love you so…

Big Birthday Weekend

Hi friends– It’s my birthday.  And we spent the long whole weekend celebrating (that means mostly eating, you know).  The best part was that Ani and Brian came on down for 4 days to make it a party.  So here’s the comestible highlights:

#1. There’s always something chocolate on the counter when Ani rolls into town– this time German chocolate cake (a particular favorite of mine).

#2. Breakfast with the family is the best, sun coming in the doorway, talking over plans for the day, french toast, fruit and bacon– with the famous Bigarel family maple syrup!

#3. Mediterranean dinner in Pasadena before the movie I’ve most been wanting to see, “First Position” –a documentary about aspiring ballet dancers.  Fascinating.

#4. Celebratory dinner at Mozza–We watched the pizza makers slip dinner into the huge wood oven–charred crust and mouth watering toppings.  That, along with a towering antipasti salad and garlic bread that Ani described as, “Heaven on a plate.”  Topped off with ground almond cake with cherry compote and cherry ice cream.  

#5. Sunday supper at home– Paprika/Orange salmon and a table full of other dishes.  Dessert was blackberry cake with whipped cream and berries from Larry’s vines.  Tasted like summer.

#6. Grandma Lo pulled all the family together for lunch on Monday at the Spaghetti Factory.  Lulu brought in the party hats and blowers along with a huge chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting.  Good times with the fam!  Thanks Mom and Lu.

Of course there were more meals in between.  And skyping with the grand girls (and their parents) in Shanghai.  And shopping with Ani.  And sitting in church together.  And today the all time most heartwarming  video ever arrived from all our kids .  Turning 60 is a lot more fun than I anticipated!