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My Favorite Things

Hettie's 6th Birthday Party

As much as I love to party, I'm a Grinch when it comes to my kids' birthdays. For the last six years, their celebrations consisted of playdates at the park or backyard BBQs with the aunties and uncles that, save a few candles, are really indistinguishable from any other festive family gathering. But last year, after letting Hettie's birthday slide (again), I was humbled and inspired when an adult friend shared how much she treasured the memories of her fifth birthday party. It reminded me of birthdays spectacular that Momo conjured out of love and thin air, and I realized: My kids are going to grow old whether I like it or not. Might as well try to create a bit of magic along the way, dammit.

All of which is to say, Hettie's sixth birthday party was pretty amazing, and it's all because I'm overcompensating (for oh, so many things!), and I really don't feel bad about it at all.

We watch The Sound of Music at our house. A lot. I have to admit, I'm pretty thrilled that, given free reign to choose what kind of a celebration she wanted, Hettie thought of a Favorite Things party all by herself. As soon as I envisioned all those little girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, I was sold. In fact, I'm pretty sure I changed the subject so that no other ideas could be suggested.

I knew I wanted to party to be spectacular, but also low stress enough that I could enjoy it. Thanks to Hettie's grown-up fan club and their very able assistance, brown paper packages and ice cream ponies came together like magic, and the day was gloriously fun -- for all of us!

The Details

Menu

Schnitzle with Noodles

Dog Bites

Fresh Fruit and Veggies

Bee Sting Punch with Kitten Whisker Straws

Crisp Apple Strudel with (Ice) Cream-colored Ponies

We bought apple strudel and pig-in-a-blanket "dog bites" ready-made from Costco. It doesn't get any easier than that! Which is good, because the rest of the menu was a little more involved...

For our schnitzle with noodles, I ordered the most delicious chicken cutlets from our favorite sandwich shop (you could really use any thin, schnitzley meat). We cut the chicken into thin strips and stuffed it inside cooked manicotti noodles along with a dollop of soft Boursin cheese and a small bunch of arugula. You could also roll the little bundles up in lasagna noodles, and secure it with a toothpick. I'll be honest, most of the kids preferred the (previously frozen) dog bites. But I was happy to have something so fun and delicious to serve the parents, too. 

Glorianna made the ponies using a cookie cutter the night before, and stored them in the freezer between sheets of wax paper. I am glad that Glorianna did this, because they were RIDICULOUSLY cute. And I never would have had the patience to bang out 15 of these. It is not easier than it looks.

We made fresh sparkling apple cider and some honey from Dave's hives on the roof for "Bee Sting Punch."

The Games:

Glorianna made the most precious silhouette of Hettie for "pin the snowflake on the nose and eyelashes." I was surprised at how much fun they had watching the other girls play. It was a huge hit.

We also had a "silver white winters that melt into spring" race -- an homage to the games of my own childhood birthdays, which inevitably included a ridiculous and ridiculously fun relay of some sort. This time, the girls had to run across the basement, don a coat, scarf, hat and mittens, take it all off, and then run back and tag their next teammate. We all sang songs from the sound of music soundtrack while they raced. Adorable.

More Details:

Glorianna made the "wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings" to hang over the table, and a big bunch of sleigh bells for the front door. The night before the party, I trimmed down some Costco roses and let the kids arrange the flowers themselves in a bright copper kettle we borrowed from Charity. It's all about the Oasis foam, people. Monkeys could make flowers look good with that stuff.

As the girls arrived, we tied on big blue satin sashes and let them make a necklace. I ordered the edelweiss charms from ETSY, and then my sweet brother, Zen, used simple jump rings and his giant man-fingers to attach the tiny sleigh bells and blue crystal pendants. If that's not love, I don't know what is. Hettie's guests ranged from 4-year-olds to third graders, so letting the girls choose between braided black silk and sparkly white floral ribbon kept things simple enough that everyone could participate and enjoy the process of creating something lovely -- without creating frustration or a mess!

Instead of gifts, Hettie asked her friends to bring "warm woolen mittens," which we gave to a friend who is a social worker to distribute to her young clients in need.

In addition to their necklaces, we sent our friends home with a packet of edleweiss seeds, and a brown paper package with some of Hettie's favorite things tucked inside -- chocolate and temporary tatts. Obvi.

I'm not over my birthdayphobia. But I loved pretty much everything about this sixth soiree. So much so, we're already kicking ideas around for Number Seven.


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Syrups and Soda and Spaaaash!

Channeling Lars here. There were some flowers from my cousin's wedding on our kitchen table. They were too pretty to let them die a normal death so I took some of the drier (or more dead) flowers and put them together on this sign with acrylic paint, straws, butchers paper and sharpee. 

Channeling Lars here. There were some flowers from my cousin's wedding on our kitchen table. They were too pretty to let them die a normal death so I took some of the drier (or more dead) flowers and put them together on this sign with acrylic paint, straws, butchers paper and sharpee. 

Custom sodas and syrups. They should be a thing. So why oh why are 98% of the syrups we see nothing more than extract from a bottle mixed with corn syrup? Some things will never make sense to me.

As you're making plans for summer entertaining, let me throw an idea out there. The last few years, Yoni and I have thrown a Soda Spash. It was supposed to be a splash, until I forgot the L in the sign and just decided to go with it. Here's how it works: make a vat of simple syrup and a vat of caramel. Then mix that with malt powder, peanut butter, and pretty much every ingredient listed above. Get ice cream, sparkling water and TADAH! Baller party with a fresh take on ice cream sodas. You don't have to go as crazy as I do on the syrups. Maybe start with one or two, then you can improvise from there. The options are as varied as your imagination, but this should give you a good start!

FIRST ...

Simple Syrup

1 Part Sugar (I like to make one brown sugar batch and one white sugar batch)

+

1 Part Water

Boil sugar and water together until sugar dissolves and consistency is slightly syrupy. Usually 5-10 minutes. This keeps for a long time. No need to put it in the fridge either.

THEN ...

Salted Chocolate Syrup

1 Cup simple syrup  +  1 Cup dark chocolate chips   +   1 tsp salt (optional)

Warm simple syrup. Add dark chocolate slowly, stirring until melted into the syrup. Add salt. Cool, but allow to come to room temperature before serving. Store in the fridge.

Strawberry Malt Syrup

Simple syrup  +  Frozen strawberries  +  Malt powder

I'd try about 1/2 the amount of simple syrup as strawberries. Pulverize strawberries in blender with a few hefty tablespoons of malt powder. Add simple syrup and stir. Allow strawberries to melt and macerate in the simple syrup. Refrigerate in airtight container.

blueberry maple cream, sour cherry and strawberry malt.

blueberry maple cream, sour cherry and strawberry malt.

A FEW TIPS:

Try sodas with about 1/2 inch of syrup in a 6 oz cup. You can always make it sweeter.  

Buy a large carton of whole milk, half and half or whipping cream and add a shot to make cream sodas. You can do this with any non-fruit syrup. 

Sometimes we make the sodas on their own and sometimes we do ice cream sodas. I make my life easier by only getting one flavor of Ice Cream -- a good Vanilla. People can still go wild with the flavors but you have fewer variables involved. 

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Torres Del Paine: The most beautiful place in the world

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Torres Del Paine translates to "Towers of Blue." Cradled deep within the Southern Andes, the park is known as the crown jewel of South America. Its glaciers, rock faces, lakes, plains and mountains leave nothing to the imagination. It's all there, resplendent with beauty no photograph can capture. Nonetheless, on Yoni's and my South American adventure, we tried our best. The story of how we actually got there is quite entertaining, but I'll save that for another post. For now, I hope you enjoy some of our favorite shots of this exquisite national park which is the most beautiful place I have ever witnessed. 

TORRES DEL PAINE: IF YOU'RE GOING to Torres Del Paine National Park, You can get more information here. We stayed and ate most of our meals here. We rented a car here. While we opted for a hotel but there is a 3-6 day hike (depending on your pace) called the W and a 5-10 day hike of the entire park called the Full Circuit. There are campsites and little hostels along the way to stay at. If you do the W, make sure to make time for some of the smaller trails. There is a short and easy hike out to Lago Grey where you can see amazing glaciers. Despite its relative ease and obscurity, the hike around the Salto Grande (Big Falls) up to and around Nordenskjöld Lake is said to be the most beautiful in the park and should not be missed. We flew this airline (6 flights, no lost bags and generally on time) and they served remarkably good food free of charge. You might want to tack a few extra days on to see this (which we did see. there is a similar glacier at Torres Del Paine, but the Perito Moreno gLacier is pretty amazing, nonetheless) or this.

What is the most beautiful place you've ever been? We want to know (and maybe want to visit!). Give us your travel tips! Either email them to us at fivetdsisters@gmail.com or leave them in the comment section below. Can't wait to hear from you.

 

 

 

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Lost Verses from the Gospel of Mark

{*or* The One Where Glorianna Plays the '3am Guilt Pangs after Not Posting for Two Months: Slap Up a Rejected Submission to McSweeney's and Call It Even' Game} 

{*or* The One Where Glorianna Plays the '3am Guilt Pangs after Not Posting for Two Months: Slap Up a Rejected Submission to McSweeney's and Call It Even' Game} 

8 And some days thence He entered into Capernaum, and such a number gathered together upon the noising of Christ’s presence that there was not one among them in that place not greatly pressed.

9 And Jesus did speak unto the multitude, saying, Have ye any sick amongst you? Any deaf or blind or lame? And they did answer him, Yea Master, Huzubib. Huzubib is super lame.

10 And said He unto them, Bring him ye unto me.

11 And they brought him forth. And Christ saw that in his heart Hizubib was a real boner. And He laid His hands upon the man’s head, and gave He a blessing unto him, saying:

12 Son, thou hast seven and thirty years. Go forth, and get thee a life.

13 And Hizubib arose, miraculously arrayed in fine raiment of black cowhide and acid-wash denim. And, taking up with him the futon from his mother's basement, Hizubib did go forth and meet himself a fiiiiiiine Hittite dancer called Gwen.

14 And the multitude marveled at the power of the Lord their God, and they did glorify Him.

15 And after this miracle had come to pass, the crowd did depart. And Jesus turned and said unto Peter, What type of mother doth name her kid Hizubib anyway? And Peter answered Him, saying, F*cking Hittites, oh Lord. F*cking Hittites.

 

Next up: Lost Verses from the Book of Jonah in which Jonah prophesies the dangers of undocumented Ninevehn immigration.

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Sprout

Oh, hi! I'm back. I missed you. And, like the nice person/flaky friend that I am, I brought you a little gift to show you've been on my mind these many moons. It's a bouquet! A brassica bouquet. I made it, but then I ate it. Sorry about that. Good news is, you can make one yourself, and it takes about three minutes of work. But don't let the ease with which these gorgeous gemmifera come together deceive you. These are spectacular sprouts -- sophisticated, succulent, and a surprisingly striking supplement to your Sunday supper or smorgasbord spread.

First -- and this is the most challenging step by far -- you must find a fecund frond of Brussels sprouts. I got mine at Trader Joe's. So, actually, it wasn't hard at all.

Once you have procured your produce, brought it home and given it a thorough wash 'n' dry, set your oven to *400. While it's heating, massage that bulbous baton with a enough evoo to cause the complete cruciferous caduceus to coruscate. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven. Keep an eye on your scepter of sprouts for about 45 minutes, and pull it out when the tips of the outer leaves get a nice rich char. Serve the cute little cabbages hot or room temperature, with a sharp knife or wee kitchen snips. You'll be so glad you did.


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Arranging the Flowers

"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul."

-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

 

Flowers are some of my favorite things.

They make me really happy -- maybe because I like nature and the feeling of being near green things, maybe because I don't think of myself as being particularly creative unless I'm  arranging flowers, or maybe 'cause I just think they're pretty. Anyway, I like 'em (doesn't really matter why). And for our fondue party, I was charged with putting together floral stuffs . But when I went to procure stems from our local grocery store, I was unimpressed. I love super market blossoms, but on this particular day the pickings at Safeway were pretty slim. I called Liberty (who was at Trader Joe's) to see if she could fill in the gaps, but the options there weren't much better. SO we decided to expand our search from the floral department to the produce section.

Some of my favorite unconventional additions in these arrangements include:

Asparagus

Dried figs (golden and purple)

Kumquats

Radishes

Rainbow Chard

Dinosaur Kale

and 

Garlic

The first time I mixed garlic into a bouquet was at Charity's wedding. She had ordered a few hundred sunflowers to decorate, but not much else. And because it was late October and we were in the middle of nowhere New York, and it was raining, we got creative. While looking through shopping bags, I found some lovely heads of garlic, purchased by my mom at a local farmer's market. They were about all we had, so I shoved them into the arrangement. The resulting product was actually quite lovely (ignore the scowling child) and got me hooked on adding unorthodox foodstuffs to bouquets. 

A few years ago I put together a simple guide for arranging flowers (you can see it here). It's basic, but it works for me. For anyone looking to get a little more adventurous, I'll add these suggestions:

-When adding things without stems to bouquets (think kumquats, figs, radishes or garlic), try sticking them on wooden skewers 

-If you're making more than one arrangement, buy or pick more "fillers" (green things, berries, branches) than you think you'll need. It's almost always a good idea

-Floral tape is your friend! Use lots.

-Take your time! Be creative! It sounds corny, but make sure you have enough time to put together an arrangement you love. I usually find time makes a big difference. 

OK. I think that's it. But if you arrange something, make sure to take a picture, instagram it and tag us (@5isterstd)! WE WANT TO SEE YOUR CREATIONS! 

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