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?)