When the girls were little, my idea of celebrating a birthday was an 8:00 dinner reservation and a babysitter booked by Andy. It didn’t matter what restaurant we were headed to, so long as I didn’t spend half the meal kneeling under the table looking for a Polly Pockets shoe. But in the past few years, as the girls have gotten older and wiser (though somehow no less clumsy in the small-parts dropping department) it’s a different story. I find it’s not nearly as fun to blow out the candles without the two of them inserting their “cha-cha-chas” in the birthday serenade, and begging for the slice with the flower.
My birthday is still a few weeks off, but I’m proud to announce that DALS turned one this week. (Can you believe??) And in the spirit of including the whole family in the celebration, I’m offering gifts to you guys, my faithful DALS readers, who on a daily basis make this space so much more rich and so much more fun. Anyone who leaves a comment below is eligible for his or her choice of various goodies I’ve been collecting from generous vendors, including Laurie David’s cookbook The Family Dinner and a pile of food-related notepads from the always entertaining Knock, Knock. (I’m just going to assume you all have the DALS signature “Make Dinner Not War” bumper sticker already, but if you don’t, you can select that for your prize as well.) As usual, the selection process will be highly scientific — Phoebe and Abby will be picking three winners at random. So keep the comments clean. (That means you 654!)
I’ve also included some fun year-in-review stats, gleaned from the all-powerful Google Analytics and then a few personal faves from Andy and me. Thought they might help as you head into the weekend.
Ten Most Clicked Posts of the Year (in order): Letter of Agreement, The Recipe Door, Instant Dinner Party, Salad Pizza, Lemon-Pepper Chicken, Picky Eater Taxonomy, Dinner: A Love Story, The Book, Time for Dinner The Cookbook, Green French Fries, Vegetable Hater Special.
Most Popular Category (no surprise): Chicken
Most Popular Pep Talk: My Real Food Movement
Most Popular Chicken Recipe: Baked Chicken with Tomatoes and Mascarpone
Most Popular Pasta Recipe: Rigatoni with Back-pocket Bolognese
Most Popular Beef Recipe: Belgian Beef Stew (more…)
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Tags:best of DALS·birthday rituals
The party officially began at 6:00 and ended at 8:00, but at 5:58 I had already checked my watch twice, counting down to its finish. Why do minutes feel like centuries during birthday parties in your own house? Or at least they do for me. But its sorta like having a baby, I guess. Because I forget the pain as soon as the last kid walks out the door with her goody bag. And then I live off the high for a solid few weeks. Before that blessed moment, though, I deal with the chaos the only way I know how: I make a schedule, always underestimating the time it takes for each activity because there’s no panic quite like the one that grips you when you look at your watch and realize you have 30 minutes left and 14 cupcake-fueled kids to entertain. Below was the itinerary for Abby’s Game-Themed Party. I am not too proud to admit that it was written down on a piece of paper that I kept in my pocket and referred to several dozen times throughout the evening. (more…)
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Tags:birthday parties·birthday rituals·kid birthday party ideas
When Phoebe first started pre-school I started a ritual. I’d pick her up after school every Friday (my day off from work) and take her and Abby to lunch at our local diner. Every time I’d walk into the classroom the teacher would say the same thing: “Phoebe! Look who’s here! It’s mommy!” I should note that this was about six or seven years ago, during the golden era of the Working Mother Manifesto — I was probably reading I Don’t Know How She Does it with my morning coffee and falling asleep with Perfect Madness splayed across my chest. So the way the teacher’s greeting registered in my overly sensitive ears was more like this: “Well I’ll be! Look who decided to show up today!? It’s your Mommy, Phoebe! Can you believe it?” Had I been a little less self-involved it might not have taken me four months to notice that she greeted all the parents with the exact same line.
But that was four months after the Friday Phoebe said to me in between bites of her diner grilled cheese,”Mom, I love Fridays. They feel more special to me than other days.”
“I know what you mean,” I told her. “I feel the same way.” Then I ate a fry and my heart began its rapid descent to dark, paranoid places. Hold it a second. Why exactly does she think Friday is so special? Cause I’m home? Cause we’re eating lunch together? Since when is Mom’s presence considered a special occasion? Is this bad? Is our diner ritual calling even more attention to the fact that I’m abandoning her the other four days of the week? What am I setting myself up for here?
And that was it for our ritual. From that point on — or at least until I matured a bit — the goal for Friday was to make it as routine as every other weekday. Lunch at home. Nap. Maybe a playdate. Let’s keep “special” where it belongs — on holidays, anniversaries, birthdays.
Birthdays. Maybe this is why in our house they are now more appropriately described as birthweeks. Because after the annual monogrammed pancake ritual (above), the classroom party, the “Pick a Country, Any Country” dinner ritual, the party for their friends, the party with their grandparents, and the sleepover with cousins after the party, we’ve logged some serious hours celebrating. So this week, since Abby is turning 7, you’ll be reading about the various ways I like to overcompensate for my maternal shortcomings make a bonafide special day…special. And then, I promise you, we’ll be right back to the everyday routine.
Monogrammed Birthday Pancakes
Fry up a nice stack of pancakes using your favorite recipe or mix. (We use a mix of Trader Joe’s buttermilk and Trader Joe’s Multi-Grain.) Monogram the top one with squeezable icing and decorate with appropriate number of candles. Note: you should probably not do this with piping hot pancakes because it might cause the candle bottoms to melt a bit into the top cake. If this does happen, just surgically remove the affected areas.
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Tags:birthday rituals·special birthdays for kids
A couple of years ago, we started a birthday tradition in our house (and it only applies to kids). When it’s your birthday, you get to go to any restaurant you want. There’s only one rule — the restaurant you pick has to be specific to a certain country. For instance, on her sixth birthday, Phoebe chose Sweden. It’s not as random as it sounds: Abby’s best friend at the time was from Stockholm, and our kids also happened to be in the midst of a powerful Muppets obsession. (Remember the Swedish Chef?) Then, Abby chose Japan. Then, Phoebe picked… Morocco. (We gave her “Middle Eastern;” she never knew the difference.) Some of these adventures (Sweden, with its creamy meatballs…jammy lingonberries…whipped potatoes) were more successful than others (Japan, with its salmon roe…daikon radishes…fancy SoHo address…$200 price tag…what were we thinking?) but the meal is only half the point. The point is that this is one of those rare, special nights the kids get to orchestrate themselves. It’s a night that involves pulling out old world maps and our book of flags and thinking about where on earth they want to go, what they want to show us. It involves tasting something completely new, even if it’s only something as hard-to-hate as a falafel platter. And it involves dressing up and going out, getting on a train, and riding all 32 minutes to Grand Central Station in a window seat, watching Yonkers roll by. Which, to them, is about as exciting as riding a pink unicorn through an enchanted forest. –Andy
Head over to Bon Appetit, where we were able to convince the chef from Smorgas to hand over his Swedish Meatballs recipe.
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Tags:birthday parties·birthday rituals·special birthdays for kids