Happy Birthday to Tyler, Kathy, Pat, Mike and Jason!

There’s a phenomenon on Mike’s side of the family – all of the family birthdays fall during two distinct periods of the year. We take advantage of this and for the past couple years have been having two large celebrations – one in the fall for 5 birthdays (between October 18 and November 1) and another in the spring for 5 birthdays (between February 2 and March 30). This year Mike and I decided to host the gathering for the spring birthdays. Due to scheduling though (I’m looking at you Mike), we had to celebrate in early February instead of closer to the mid-point. Believe it or not, it was the first (and only so far) gathering in our house that Mike has been in full attendance for (in fact, our nephew told Uncle Mike that he really liked Aunt Sydney’s house).

Mike’s sister Kathy decorates amazing cakes for birthday celebrations, what she can do with icing is a thing of art. The bar for quality had been set. I know that my patience with icing pales in comparison (and by pales I mean I have no patience with icing), so I decided that I’d just bake a lot of cake. But, in true Sydney fashion, I overestimated my ability to get things done – and while Mike cleaned the house, I attempted to bake my way through two potato pies and five flavors of cake. Mike’s definition of ‘Company Clean’ is Herculean by my standards – and once he gets started, get out of the way and don’t let a crumb hit the floor that he’s just finished cleaning (and if one does, because several did, pick it up right away). As much of a headache getting the house up to his standard of ‘Company Clean’ can be, I always appreciate the after-effects of an immaculate house. So while Mike was busy mopping and sweeping the floors, cleaning the bathroom, and re-cleaning the kitchen after I’d ‘cleaned’ it, I was up to my ears in baking. After combining two cake flavors into a layered cake and making another whole cake and some cupcakes, Mike, in an effort to bring my stress level down a notch (and possibly to get me out of the kitchen sooner), assured me that the fifth flavor (carrot cake) for him was not necessary for this party. With that cake crossed off the list, we were able to finish everything up before family started to arrive. Thankfully, my in-laws also came bearing food, so there was plenty to be had.

Both the food and the company made for a wonderful evening filled with full stomachs and lots of laughter. Mike received nice kitchen knives from both his sister and his brother’s girl friend – which I very much appreciated as well. If you’ve ever tried to cut something (particularly a loaf of bread) in our kitchen – and both Kathy and Andrea have on numerous occasions – then you know that our previous knives (especially the bread knife) were pretty much useless with the exception of our boning knife and carving set (neither of which is designed to cut a loaf of bread – did I mention that was a challenge before?)



Mother’s Day Brunch

Table setting (left), chocolate donuts & blueberry soda bread (top right), hand stamped mother’s day card (middle right), bacon + scrambled eggs with green peppers and onions + biscuits & gravy (lower right)

Mother’s Day marked the first holiday hosted at the new house/hosted by us in general. Mike and I teamed up to make quite the feast, needless to say, no one left hungry… or ate lunch.

From my previous post, you’ll recall that the donuts were made the night before. That really freed up some kitchen space for the massive mess that would ensue Sunday morning. Thankfully, the soda bread recipe (from a previous posting) is pretty quick to whip up and very versatile. For this particular loaf, I kneaded in some fresh blueberries, and it turned out fantastic! I basically just followed the recipe for the soda bread, and then after doing most of the kneading, I folded in a small handful of blueberries. Then I kneaded some more, and folded in more blueberries. I did that a couple times, and then it was business as usual.

I then took care of setting the table, getting the beverages set out and such while Mike manned the main course. First he tackled the sausage gravy, which he kept warm in our crockpot after making it – genius idea so that he could get that dish out of the way and continue to cook without sacrificing heat and texture. After he got the gravy into the crockpot he dashed over to Trader Joes to pick up some bacon and pre-made biscuits. What ensued when he arrived home was a blur of bacon and two types of scrambled eggs while I threw the biscuits into the oven.

I’d say the key learnings would be: setting the table the night before, making sure we had everything we needed – thus sparing the mad dash to the supermarket, and perhaps more strategically using pots/pans/cooking utensils (the mess was massive – a huge thanks to my dad for manning the sink after brunch).

Below, a couple snapshots of the family from brunch. Yes, that’s Tory photobombing the pictures! Mike and Ian were in fact there, but they both looked super tired – so I’m leaving those pix out 🙂

Mother’s Day Preview

Now that Mike and I have a house of our own, and lots of pretty serve ware, I plan on hosting whenever I can. I love to host. On Sunday, we’ll be hosting our first holiday in the new house: a Mother’s Day brunch for my mom (Helene).

Without giving too much away (she reads this blog), I wanted to share a little nugget from our Mother’s Day planning session last night:

SYDNEY: So, I want to make this chocolate cherry tart for Mother’s Day…
MIKE: Have you made it before?
MIKE: This is Mother’s Day we’re talking about, not just some dinner party – we can’t risk a new recipe, we have to bring our A Game. Only recipes that we know we can make successfully.
SYDNEY: So, potato pie, mini donuts and soda bread?
MIKE: Potato pie isn’t a breakfast food
SYDNEY: But I can successfully make it 🙂