January 21st, 2009
Troy’s ship has been on a four-day workweek for a while now, which is nice. It means he has to work longer hours Monday through Thursday but he has most Fridays off, which is great. Since this Monday was a holiday, you know what that means: four-day weekend!
Saturday, as you know if you’ve been reading along, was Bug’s birthday party. As it happens, when we drive up to Orange County we pass through the town where dear friends of ours live, the Jay* family. We figured, why not pack as much fun into the weekend as it will hold? We called and arranged to go up on Friday and stay the night with the Jays before driving the rest of the way up to Brenda & Toby’s on Saturday.
In addition to being our dear friends, JL and D are also Annalie’s godparents. We met them when we lived in Virginia way back in 2001, and spent a lot of time with them and their awesome kids Joe & Nina* before they moved off to Iceland and we moved to Arizona.
We had planned a trip to visit them over Troy’s winter break from school in January 2004 (yes, we lived in Phoenix and deliberately went to Iceland in midwinter) when we found out I was pregnant with Annalie. We knew two things right away: that we would wait to tell them in person, and that we would ask them to be godparents. The Jays are the only people we got to tell in person that we were having a baby, and it was fun. There were hugs all around and JL broke out the champagne so we could have mimosas. It made biting our tongues when we talked to them for a month totally worth it.
After the Jays lived in Iceland, they were stationed in Japan for several years. We really wanted to go visit them there too but it never worked out. Which is why it’s great that we’re all in Southern California now. It’s nice to know they’re only an hour-long drive away. And even better, they are the kind of people who don’t require a phone call to warn them that we’re coming. We could drop in anytime unannounced and they’d be delighted to see us.
As we turned onto their street Friday afternoon, we saw D & Joe driving towards us in their car. We waved, stopped, and rolled down our windows. Troy asked if they’d forgotten we were coming over. D explained that they had overdue videos to return and wanted to do it before they forgot. She told us their house was open and we should go on in and make ourselves at home.
When we arrived, the house was empty. Nina was over at a neighbor’s house. (Annalie wandered the house, occasionally calling out, “Nina! Nina, where are you?” till she got back a few minutes later. It was cute and funny because she kept it up even after we assured her that no one was home, we were the only people in the house.) We dropped our bags by the door and wandered into the kitchen…
…where we were greeted by this scene on the table. After we stopped laughing, I busted out my camera and took some photos. When D and Joe got back, Donna explained that she had purchased a swack of these Barbie-type dolls and action figures at a thrift store a few years ago, and used them in a Sunday school class she taught for her students to act out the Bible stories. Since then, Joe & Nina make up elaborate games with them (“Who knew naked Barbies would be so entertaining?” D said) to amuse themselves and any visitors who happen to stumble upon the tableaus they’ve arranged.
Did I mention that Joe & Nina are awesome kids? Because they totally are. We first met them when they were only 5 and 3 years old, which is so hard to believe now that they’re 12 and 10 and both taller than I am. Even though they are quite a bit older than Annalie, they are are so sweet and patient with her. They let Annalie follow them around like a puppy, and Annalie pays them back by adoring them wholeheartedly.
In fact, from the minute Nina got home Friday night we barely saw Annalie at all till everyone watched a movie together that evening. Annalie’s normal bedtime is 7:30, but she was so stoked to be up with the big kids that she stayed awake till 10 o’clock. She was cuddling on the floor with Troy towards the end and finally passed out 20 minutes before the movie ended.
The next morning, D made us breakfast, French toast and bacon and coffee. That’s something of a tradition with them. When we all lived in Virginia we would often go over to their house after church on Sunday morning and D would make pots and pots of coffee and enough bacon to feed an army, or at least two sailors, their wives, and two kids. (D is the one who taught me how to cook bacon in the oven, KJ!) We’d all sit around the table drinking coffee and talking and laughing for hours.
Saturday was no different, except for the fact that JL wasn’t there (he’s overseas right now). But another friend of theirs stopped by for breakfast and brought cranberry bread. D & JL are always feeding extra people at mealtimes. They have a gift for finding people who need fellowship and making them part of the family. I want to be like that when I grow up.
After breakfast I helped D clear the dishes while Troy worked on tackling the remaining items on the list of computer problems D had handed him when when we first got there. We packed up our stuff and thanked our friends for the lovely time. Then D said something that is a perfect example of why we love her.
“You know if you decide you don’t want to drive all the way home tonight, even if it’s midnight, you’re welcome to come stay here.” She paused, then added, “And just so you know, we don’t expect you to stop here every time you’re driving up to see your friends in Orange County. You’re welcome whenever you want to stop, but don’t feel like you have to.” That of course only makes us want to stop by more.
After the fun of our overnight stay with the Jays and Bug’s party, it was nice to have two whole days at home to just relax and check a few items off the to-do list. Annalie found just the right treasures to put in the butterfly box Dana painted for her when she was here earlier this month. As she was putting them in the box she listed them off: “The seashell that came with my Little Mermaid doll…a shiny, shiny penny…this starry barrette…a blue cherry from the Hi-Ho Cherry-O game…a teeny tiny ice cream cone…and the beautiful bracelet Gabby & Annie made for me. Perfect!”
Sunday I went poking around in the fridge looking for inspiration for dinner. I had potatoes and carrots I wanted to use up, and Trader Joe’s pizza dough that needed to be baked. So I made garlic cheese bread with the dough, and a really yummy soup with the veggies. (Recipes here.) I don’t know why, but it seems like I always make up the best recipes when I’m just trying to use up stuff in the fridge.
We all really liked the bread, and Troy and I liked the soup, but Annalie LOVED the soup. She ate a large bowlful and asked for seconds. It makes me so happy that she loves soup, because I do too. I love making it, inventing recipes for it, and eating it. It seems like most kids aren’t very fond of soup in general—I don’t remember liking anything but Campbell’s Chicken Noodle as a kid—but I remember her happily gobbling up homemade chili, tomato soup, cream of broccoli when she was barely a year old. When we eat at Panera I never order a kids’ PB&J meal for her; she prefers to share our soup and baguettes. I love that.
Troy has been wanting to install under-cabinet lights in our kitchen for a while. We picked up some LED disc lights at IKEA, and he spent parts of Sunday and Monday attaching them to the cabinets, figuring out how he wanted to arrange cords, and drilling tiny holes in the back of the cabinets. At one point he had half the contents of the two cupboards sitting on the counter and the fridge pulled out into the middle of the floor so he could plug the lights in. But finally he got everything arranged and put everything back and now I have lights so I can see when I bake at night. Thanks, Troy!
Speaking of baking at night, I needed to use some very brown bananas and I wasn’t in the mood for banana bread, so I made these banana cupcakes (with a couple teaspoons of grated lemon rind thrown in the batter) with lemon cream cheese frosting Monday evening after Annalie went to bed. I don’t know why I feel compelled to bake so often at a time of night when most people are thinking about sleep. I guess I find it relaxing. Plus, you know, something yummy to eat as a bedtime snack.
I wanted to swirl the icing on with a decorator tip, but I was feeling lazy so I snipped the corner off a ziplock bag instead. When I went to swirl the icing, it came out in an odd-looking elliptical shape. It occurred to me that I could snip a tiny line up into the bag perpendicular to the cut, and it should make a four-pointed star. So I tried it, and it totally worked! I bet I could make a six- or eight-pointed star out of the corner of a ziplock bag, if I tried. In a way it’s too bad I figured that out, because if I can just throw a bag away instead of washing out a pastry bag or accordion bottle, well, I’m probably gonna.
I was doing my usual swirls when I remembered how adorable I thought the frosting was on smitten kitchen’s carrot cupcakes with maple cream-cheese frosting. Mine aren’t as cute as Deb’s, but they’re still pretty! And tasty too.
Hmm, look at that. Once again I find myself at the end of a rambling post without a clue how to end it gracefully. How about some cute photos of Annalie and her stuffed Dolphin, Dolly?
Dolly is one of Annalie’s favorite toys. She carries this huge thing around the house with her, takes it to bed with her, talks to it, plays make-believe games with it, brings it in the minivan with her when we go somewhere.
Annalie has been telling me lately that Dolly’s real name is Princess, and Dolly is just her nickname. Oh, and her other favorite toy lately, the knitted snake she got from Rhi when we met in Portland? She’s called Pretty Snakey, but her real name is Princess. And Baby Annie, the doll she’s had since she was 18 months old and who has been Baby Annie since the moment Annalie opened the box? Her real name is Princess, she’s just called Baby Annie for short. And her Glo-Worms? They’re both named Princess too. And Rainbow Bear is really named Princess. “And if we ever get a dog, Mama, you know what I’ll name her? Princess. And my Cabbage Patch Kid is called Greta, but really her name is Princess. And…”
*Not their real names.