creeps into a new day. I open my eyes
and my first thought on November 19 is, “Today is my birthday. Does anyone know? Does anyone care? Well, I do.”
Birthdays are important because
they celebrate our life for a day.
Feelings about the day morph as life goes on but at some point, as an
adult, we need to make peace with the existence of birthdays and decide how we
will live out the remainder of our life of birthdays. And for me I decided long ago that I would
define my own celebration. I gave myself
permission to feel special on that day and that I wanted those in my life to
feel important on their birthday, if possible.
was there on that cold November day when I came. She alone remembered every detail of my
beginnings and they were vivid in her thoughts during each of my birthdays to
follow, I know. I am sure she recalled
my rosebud mouth (she said I had one), my wee, pink 5 pounds curled in her
arms, smelling of baby lotion sweetness.
There is no earthly joy quite like that day for a new mother. I believe that is why mothers instigate
birthday celebrations forever after.
comes I know I will reminisce the births of my first 3 Children. My first boy arrived right on time, October
3--a 9 ½ lb. breech, C-section after 22 hours of labor, when I thought I might
die—then the wonder of the sweet little boy in my arms. I never expected to feel this much elation,
especially after the difficult delivery.
Three years later on October 6, a little girl was born at 5:52 AM. I still see 5:52 AM on my clock some mornings
and think of that day. She was a healthy
10 ½ lbs. but there was no labor this time—a scheduled caesarian. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever
seen with her big eyes and dark skull cap of hair. Oh yes, I should celebrate this day. And then 2 years later, on October 12,
another little boy was born with clogged tear ducts and a little indentation in
his chest, but it made me want to love him even more. 8 lbs. 12 oz. made him my smallest baby, but
now he is the tallest at 6’6”. And then there was a gift for my mother, a beautiful
10 lb. little boy born on June 19, her birthday. How delightful of him to come on that
have friend birthday parties when I was a child except once for me when I was
10. I am still amazed my mother did
it. Our house was an unfinished basement
embarrassment. We lived 3 miles out of
town. I didn’t have friends come to play
very often. But my sweet mother waxed
the old linoleum, made the beds and tidied up the house. She baked her famous golden layer birthday
cake with mounds of fluffy 7 minute frosting and crowned it with 10 candles for
me to blow out, while 7 little girls sang happy birthday to me. It was a surprise party. I left the bus and skipped down the lane to
my home after school anticipating that there would at least be a family party
and always the special cake and a present.
But my heart leapt with joy when I opened the door to the shouts of “Surprise!” I can still feel every minute of that lovely
day. Thank you mother for that happy
memory. Maybe that is why I agreed to a
birthday party every year for each of my
children. The first week of October was
always a mad house of parties and baking, but I did it anyway. And it was always lots of fun.
first little boy, Beau, was a year old we were students at Stanford living in a
4-plex facing another one with a courtyard in the middle. We invited everyone we knew. I made papier-mâché puppets of Goldilocks and
the 3 bears and put on a puppet show. We
cranked homemade ice cream to eat with the clown cake and had a fish pond for
the kids. When my grandson Michael was
two I resurrected the puppets and rewrote the Goldilocks story for him. For the next 4 birthdays I wrote a new puppet
show and collected a rag-tag of assorted puppets for the stories. And I made whatever cake he wanted—a horse, an
elephant, a cheetah and others. His mom
lets me make the cakes. Last year Luke
came for Michael’s 9th birthday and I wrote another show about the two of
them. (All the stories and puppets are saved
years I cook and invite friends to my house for my own birthday lunch. No one is allowed to bring presents. We just have a nice gab fest. I love doing it. I also give lots of birthday lunches for
friends or would be friends.
been years, after they left the nest, when some of my children have forgotten
my birthday. I don’t really care about
presents but I do want to be remembered with at least a phone call. I think they would be very hurt if I forgot
them. I usually call them late in the
evening. Sometimes I sing, “happy
birthday to me.” Now they never forget. Again,
I believe we should define how we want our birthday to be and never feel sad or
rejected because someone didn’t make us feel happy on our day. We can make our own happiness. It helps to communicate what you want.
the birthday cake with the fluffy frosting.
That’s all he cares about. But he
wants fudge filling in the middle. That
is my addition to make it special for him, chocolate lover that he is. One year Leif’s girlfriend called me from
Seattle wanting to know how to make a Snicker Pie so she could make it for his
birthday. He always wanted a Snicker Pie
instead of a cake and I am glad I had something that he remembered with
longing. Beau always wants a Fresh Peach
Cream Pie. I feel happy that I had traditions
of something from my kitchen, to show my love, and not just a cake from Smiths.
Maren likes the old family birthday
cake. Once I tried to mail her one when
she was living in South Carolina.
Something was wrong with the address and by the time it arrived it was
not worth eating. (I did have the
frosting separate for her to frost but alas the plan failed, hopefully I got credit
after my birthday when the light strikes my eyes I think, “Whew, I am glad my
birthday is over and I can go back to feeling normal.” One day a year is more than enough of that
special birthday feeling.
I don’t mind reading a book
with a slow start like Adam Bede if I am enchanted by the writing, which I was
in this book. The first few pages
worried me as they had so much peasant dialect I thought it might take me
forever to get through it all. But it
eased off as the story moved along and popped up only occasionally and then I
got better at bumping through it. Recently
I received an e-mail with these lines.
It reminded me of some of the paragraphs with dialect that I struggled
with at the beginning.
This book was a delicious read
for me, but is not for the quick read, pulp fiction fan. I enjoyed the plodding character development
of the beginning chapters. Elliot’s
descriptions of pastoral life were like viewing a classic painting, so rich and
detailed with light and colors.
“ The low westering sun shone right on the shoulders of the old Binton Hills,
turning the unconscious sheep into bright spots of light; shone with a glory
beyond that of amber or amethyst. It was
enough to make Adam feel that he was in a great temple…” (P. 485)
Elliot’s Adam Bede is a
well-liked man’s man with good looks, wisdom and honor. He is a carpenter, self-educated and
brilliant beyond his peers. He is fondly connected from childhood to Arthur Donithorne,
grandson of the old squire, slated to be the next squire when the old man
dies. Arthur prides himself in his generosity
and dreams of being a better master to his tenants than his grandfather has
been when his time comes.
Both men (unbeknownst to the
other) are besot with Hetty, the beautiful niece of the best tenant farmer,
Martin Poysner. I knew someone like Hetty
once, a woman so beautiful that you can’t look away. I think beauty this stunning is rare. But Hetty had her character flaws, driven by
her vanity, perhaps a common temptation to a woman of her brilliance.
“Adam was looking at Hetty, and saw the frown, and pout, and the dark
eyes seeming to grow larger with pettish half-gathered tears. Quiet Mary Burge, who sat near enough to see
her, thought that so sensible a man as Adam must be reflecting on the small
value of beauty in a woman whose temper was bad. Mary was a good girl, not given to indulge in
evil feelings, but she said to herself, that, since Hetty had bad temper, it
was better Adam should know it. And it
was quite true that if Hetty had been plain, she would have looked very ugly
and unamiable at that moment, and no one’s moral judgment upon her would have
been in the least beguiled. But really
there was something quite charming in her pettishness: It looked so much more like innocent distress
than ill humor; and the severe Adam felt no movement of disapprobation; he only
felt a sort of amused pity, as if he had seen a kitten setting up its back, or
a little bird with his feathers ruffled.
He could not gather what was vexing her, but it was impossible to him to
feel otherwise than that she was the prettiest thing in the world, and that if
he could have his way, nothing should ever vex her any more.” P. 255
But Arthur is the one who wins
Hetty’s favor with a hopeless liaison of different classes, sure to break her
heart. Arthur knows he is doing wrong
and plans to break it off after a little indulgent toying. He is not an evil cad, but a man caught in a weakness
of temptation that he cannot break from until he finally decides to leave with
his military regiment. By this time
Arthur knows that Adam loves Hetty too and hopes that his going will open a
door for their relationship.
This is the plot set up. What is to happen to Hetty? Don’t read too many reviews of this story as
there are surprises that you don’t want to have spoiled.
The story has many poignant
spiritual elements, mostly centered about the character Dinah, also a niece of
the Poysners. She is beautiful in her
own simple way but as different from Hetty as possible. Dinah is a Methodist preacher who has dedicated
her life to Christ. As a woman she is an
anomaly, but the crowds are drawn to her words and countenance. Dinah has a spiritual gift for
comforting. As a motivated Christian I
was inspired by her character:
“From her girlhood upwards she had had experience among the sick and
the mourning, among minds hardened and shriveled through poverty and ignorance,
and had gained the subtlest perception of the mode in which they could best be
touched and softened in willingness to receive words of spiritual consolation
or warning. As Dinah expressed it, ‘she
was never left to herself; but it was always given her when to keep silence and
when to speak.” And do we not all agree
to call rapid thought and noble impulse by the name of inspiration? After our
subtlest analysis of the mental process, we must still say, as Dinah did, that
our highest thoughts and our best deeds are all given to us.”
George Eliot narrates parts of
the book as a godlike onlooker helping us understand characters, often with of
plea to hold judgment. I thought her
interludes were insightful and even fun.
Her wisdom and understanding of human nature is profound. There are no evil characters, only
interesting, flawed and selfish humans as exists in all of us. There is so much
wit and wisdom in this book that I would like to give you a page or two of
quotes, but the best would be to read it.
This is my first George Eliot,
but I have already purchased a book of her best novels. I am looking forward to more of her words.
Masterpiece Theater has a production of this that I rented on Net Flix. It was enjoyable after reading the book. It might seem shallow before. They did take some cinematic liberties with the story that I did not like, mostly exposing elements that should have waited for the last. And some that were never exposed in the book of a sexual encounter that didn't need to be played out.
This is my favorite dessert find this year. I have a box of them in the freezer right now for any unexpected dinner needs or personal cravings. They will thaw in 5 minutes and are totally satisfying for a little sugar, chocolate fix. Plus they look like you bought them at an exclusive bakery.
OREO CHEESECAKE BITES
Crush 15 Oreo Cookies and mix with 2
T. melted butter.
Use a 9 inch square pan or a 7x11 pan.
(this size is important) Line with foil
and wrap outside the pan. Spray with Pam
Press the Oreo mixture into the
Beat 2- 8 oz. blocks of cream cheese
½ C. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ C. sour cream
When nice and smooth gently fold in
10 more Oreo cookies, each broken into 4 or 5 pieces. Pour onto the crust and spread to the
corners. Bake at 325 for about 30-35 minutes
or until the center is set. (It will
start to brown just a little on the top)
When cold pull out of the pan
in the foil and cut into squares about 1 inch wide. Line them up squarely on a cookie sheet and
drizzle with the chocolate as described below.
Melt 6-8 oz. each of white and milk
or semisweet chocolate (separately) I like the milk for this. You can use chocolate chips or chopped bulk
chocolate. (Guittard for chips) If you use white chocolate chips they are not really chocolate and
don’t melt as well so add 1 tsp oil and stir well after melting. (Bakers sells a White Chocolate cube at the grocer about the right size) The microwave has a way of ruining
chocolate. I wouldn’t use it for this. You can melt the chocolate in a double boiler or
put the chocolate in a bowl over some very hot water and stir until melted. Chocolate is sensitive to high heat and will get grainy, so if
you do it in the double boiler just get the water hot and remove from the heat. My favorite way to melt chocolate is in the
oven overnight with the oven light on.
It produces enough heat to melt the chocolate. It doesn’t even need chopped if you have a
block. So I like to make the cheesecake
one day, cool overnight, and that night put the chocolate in the oven to melt
and drizzle the next morning.
Spoon the chocolate into a small
ziplock bag and squeeze it all into a corner, twist the top a little. Snip a very small corner off the
end. Drizzle stripes of the brown
chocolate going one way and then stripes of the white chocolate going the other
way. They end up looking very
You can freeze these for a month or
two if they last that long.