What a day! When the alarm went off on Friday, I woke Abe up by wishing him a cheery “Happy birthday!”.
“Let’s not overstate it,” Abe groaned, as he dragged himself tiredly out of bed. “How about saying just ‘birthday’?” (Abe’s least favorite part of every day is getting up, so feeling happy in the morning can be slightly daunting for him.)
Ooooh, boy, I thought to myself. We’re going to have to work extra hard to make this day special.
I jumped out of bed, made Abe a birthday breakfast, prepped his lunch, and got to work cleaning the kitchen. As soon as he left for work, I hauled out the vacuum and cleaned all the floors and carpets, and then I busted out the dusters and wash rags and cleaned until the house sparkled. After cleaning, I squeezed in a scripture study and then practiced the piano for a good three hours. At that point, I started to panic about the food. It was about noon and I had yet to:
- assemble, ice and decorate the cake
- make Abe’s favorite borscht (recipe follows–you will see it requires an insane amount of cutting and chopping)
- make and fry potato pancakes (using a box grater because my food processor is back in Hyde Park. This task was also daunting because I am terrified of frying and all of the spattering oil.)
- make three appetizers (rye bread with homemade Liptauer cheese and radishes, cucumber slices with trout pate and dill, and stuffed Medjool dates–some with goat cheese and pecans, and others with cream cheese and pecans)
- wash my hair and dry my hair (an hour + long process that I had put off for almost two weeks!!)
All this had to be done in a total of less than six hours. It might seem like a long time, but each of the things on the to-do list could easily consume an hour or more. Plus, I had a billion dishes to do between each dish! And, to make matters more interesting, Abe and I had been up until the wee hours the night before assembling training packets for his officers. I was exhausted, but I wanted Abe to come home to a clean and birthdayed-out house, so I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.
Here are the finished products:
|Appetizers! Malika saved the day and made a whole other plate of stuffed dates because I ran out of time after putting these two trays together.|
|I used the leftover red dye for the piping on top, but it came out pink. So it looks like a cake for our baby girl instead of my 27 year old husband. Oh well. The red velvet cake was great, thanks to my friend Betsy! Check out her blog for the inspiring recipe (and pics of a superior end product):http://betsyandmicah.blogspot.com/2010/05/red-velvet-cake.html I have not piped in years, and so I covered the cake with a cake cover because I was sure all of my ridiculous baubles would melt and fall off the cake. I didn’t want to witness its sad demise. Tragically, when I removed the cake cover, I managed to smear off half of the decorative edging!|
|This is the most amazing borscht! It’s not very traditional, but it sure is yummy. I am posting the recipe at the end. Seriously, this is a winner (and it’s even vegan if you don’t garnish it with sour cream!).|
|I forgot to take a picture of Abe on his birthday!! So he wore the same outfit two days later and posed with a piece of leftover cake. His outfit matched the cake–very retro. He’s wearing his grandfather’s sweater–and shoes. =)|
|Here Malika and I are having a very serious discussion about the joys of cream cheese frosting.|
How did the surprise go, you might wonder? Well, I managed to drop the Skype call just as Abe was walking in the door, so I made him go back out and come in two more times before I was finally ready. But it all worked out. His family sang “Happy Birthday” to him and his friends called in for the next half hour and sent along birthday greetings. Some of them are planning on coming out to meet our baby, and they had fun joking about how they’ll have diaper changing parties together. (Can you just imagine a group of male Wharton grads getting together and changing diapers? Talk about a break from Wall Street. The thought makes me laugh soooooooo hard!)
As for the piano performance, it went…okay. I managed to botch every single piece, but Abe professed to not notice. He insisted on taping the performance, so eventually we might post it to the blog. I introduced each piece by saying a little something about it. When it came time to introduce the Chopin Ballad in g minor, I mentioned that music critics often say this piece feels like a battle between Heaven and Hell. I meant to talk about why it represents to me how a couple in love can overcome their inner demons and the trials of life together, but it sounded hokey…so I ended up comparing the war between Heaven and Hell to marriage, and it came out all wrong. By the end of the piece, Malika exclaimed, “Wow, that makes me afraid of marriage!” Oops! But hopefully Abe knows I love him, even if I managed to compare our marriage to divine warfare.
So in the end, we had a wonderful time. By the end of the night, my legs were so swollen from standing and working all day that I could barely move, but everyone was well fed and happy. And Abe felt so loved! Thanks, everyone, for all of the recipes, suggestions, tips, skype dry-runs and phone calls. You helped make Abe’s 27th birthday a success, and I love you all for it!
|Ooh, and Abe’s dad just sent me a Skype photo he took of Abe during the birthday Skype session!|
Here’s the borscht recipe for those interested in tasting the best, most nutritious borscht of their lives. (This was given to me by Abe’s dad, who got it from Abe’s Aunt Christina):
Tomato-Beet (Borscht) Soup
1 (14&1/2 ounce) can tomatoes
1 (16 ounce) can sliced beets (use homeade bottled beets when available)
2 cups diced, peeled potatoes
2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage strips
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/2 cup drained, canned sauerkraut
1 (3-ounce) can tomato paste
2 cups tomato juice
4 cups water
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dillweed (or 2 teaspoons dried dillweed)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream for garnish
1. Drain tomatoes and beets, reserving liquid. Chop beets and tomatoes.
2. In large pot, combine tomatoes with liquid, beets with liquid, potatoes, cabbage, onion, celery, carrot, and sauerkraut. Stir in tomato paste, then tomato juice unitl blended. Add water, parsley, dillweed, sugar, garlic, bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
3. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat. cover and simmer 45 to 60 minutes until potatoes are tender.
1. Remove bay leaves. Ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with a daub of sour cream.
Yield: 8 Servings