Category Archives: birthdays

thirtysomething special

The Secret of Life is enjoying the passage of time

Happy birthday to one of the best people I know

Sunrise, sunset

Happy birthday to a banged up Molly B

Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me?

We train all year for this event, alternating cardio, weight and cartography workouts.  We pack with precision. Wicking clothes. Check! Running shoes. Check! Sunblock. Check!

On the big day, we hit the road early, well before sunrise, fielding phone calls from various family members, concerned about our progress.

My mother’s birthday has become an endurance extravaganza. As I’ve written about before, the woman, born in the shadow of Coney Island, loves amusement parks more than anyone we know. She’s been celebrating her birthday at Disney World for the past 17 years.

This year, she met us in the parking lot, handed us rain ponchos she “keeps in her car for just these occasions” and said, “Let’s go!” We hit two parks, five rides, and three shows, all before we even checked into our hotel.

In the face of unrelenting rain, my mother charged on. My Fitbit kept sending me congratulatory messages about new step badges I’d achieved. Halfway through the day I’d earned a Hiking Boot, Trail Shoe, Classics, High Tops, and Urban Boot badges. I have no idea what that means, but I know I earned them in the pouring rain trotting after my 77-year old mother.

We exited Animal Kingdom and made our way to the buses, intending to head back to Epcot for a late lunch at Mom’s favorite French restaurant.

I jogged ahead as I was anxious to drag my drenched butt to dry land. “Will the bus to Epcot be here soon?” I panted.

“‘Bout 20 minutes,” the park employee said. “You catch it on the other side.”

Thankfully, mom caught up

“Here’s what we’ll do,” she said decisively. “We take the Boardwalk bus. We get off, walk across the bridge and take the back entrance into Epcot.”

We did as told and arrived at our reservation 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

We’ll never take for granted the privilege of scurrying along in Grandma Peggy’s wake. I’d write more, but it’s only day two of our celebration, she’s waiting in the lobby and Splash Mountain calls..


We paused briefly during our sprint through the parks, appropriately in front of the Tree of Life.




The Great Bun Harvest of 2015

We harvested a bumper crop of buns last week, thanks to a miscalculation of party supplies.

They rose in an intimidating mass following a neighborhood celebration of our friend Doug’s 92nd birthday.

I eyed them skeptically as I tidied the kitchen following the successful cookout.

“What just happened?” I asked. “I ordered just enough buns for the hamburgers and hot dogs. We have seven leftover hamburgers and 43 leftover buns!”

In a carb-averse world, sometimes you have to get creative.

So, I made toast, bread pudding and, with my last gasp of bread creativity, I ground the last two dozen or so into bread crumbs, which I froze for later use with fried chicken.

Certain challenges make summer entertaining ripe for private triumphs — the exact right ratio of marshmallow, chocolate and graham crackers; a bowl of dip with neither excess nor naked crudités; enough ice for exterior chilling of cans and interior clinking in cups; the proper pairing of cheese to cracker and, obviously, the right proportion of bun to meat.


From the shadow of my bun mound rose a recipe I’m happy to share should you find yourself similarly bun-laden.

We hate to see a good bun go to waste.

Bun Pudding

6 good sized hamburger buns

6 eggs

three cups of milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups sugar

2 cups frozen berries

Tear buns into small pieces and place them in a greased 13x9x2 pan. Toast in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, pour milk into a large bowl and add the eggs. Beat until all the eggs are incorporated. Add sugar and vanilla.

Remove bread from the oven and increase oven temperature to 350.

Sprinkle frozen berries over the buns.

Pour custard mixture over buns and berries. Let soak for 15 minutes.

Bake 45 minutes or so, until set.

Janet and Doug

First, the party. These are our friends Doug and Janet. They never age, but we like to celebrate their birthdays anyway. I’m posting his toast at the end of this blog because it was hilarious.

Kim Vince and the babies

These are the youngest members of the neighborhood, getting to know each other. Happily, they’ll be joined by some even younger members later this summer. You might say some of our guests arrived with buns in the oven. Woo hoo!

Dougs party

They’re a sweet bunch, but not the best bun eaters we’ve ever hosted.

Owen and the crowd

That’s our little friend Owen in the background. He pretty much stole the show.

Bread Pudding 005

But, what are you going to do with a big bunch of buns? This is the pile AFTER I made the bun pudding.

Bread Pudding 001

This is what it looks like after you pour the milk mixture on.

Bread Pudding 009

This is the done deal. Delicious!

Please enjoy our nonagenarian friend’s sentimental toast at his 92nd birthday party…

Racing toward 40 with a smile on her face

Through a new lens

Happy birthday to the Outlaw Mary Jane and the In-Law Donna

We’ve noticed that the sweetest candy and the shiniest shoes are called Mary Janes.

And, though both have been around much longer than our beloved Outlaw Mary Jane, we think the three Mary Janes share a number of attributes including eternal style, reliability, grace, comfort and kindness.

Today, we’re chewing a little sweet candy, and kicking up our patent leather flats to celebrate the birthday of our favorite Mary Jane.

It won’t be her most memorable birthday, not by a long shot.

That honor might belong to her third birthday, sweetly noted by her mother in an intimidatingly well-kept baby book. That year, she “Made a trip to radio station KYW, said her name over the radio. After the first time, she went to the end of the line, to repeat same again.”

The story confirms the lifelong paradox of Mary Jane, an introverted ham.

Her most memorable birthday might have been her 80th, when the family gathered in Naperville for a champagne toast and party.

It might have been the years her husband Vince took her to Arlington Racetrack to bet on lucky No. 8 and steal a couple of hours away from their growing family.

Or the years her mother decorated the dining room table with blue and white streamers, flowers and a store bought cake from Widens Bakery. Those were good birthdays too.

By far, though, Mary Jane’s best birthday happened in 1957, when she gave birth to her daughter Donna, the second of Vince and Mary Jane’s nine children.

In honor of that birthday, we’d like to take a moment to say Happy Birthday Grandma Mary Jane! and Happy birthday Donna, too!

We hope both of you celebrate all weekend long to kick off one of your best years yet.

3 year old birthday details

Here’s a 1934 entry in the well-kept Mary Jane Baby Book.

Mary Jane Candy

I used to say I was eating these in honor of my mother in-law, but, really I just like the sticky, peanut-buttery goodness. Still, I think of her every time I buy them.

Elaine's  wedding 087

The Outlaw Mary Jane loves to hang out with her family.

Grandma MJ pyramid

She’s a fun-loving mother in-law too.


Here is most of the family at her 80th birthday party.

Donna, Vince, Laura and Molly

We’re saluting the in-law Donna as well. Happy birthday to the family adventurer.


And Happy Birthday to the Outlaw Mary Jane!