Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy Half Birthday Jack!

Half Birthday Cake ~ on fire!

Life is short.

Seems like the days pass by more quickly with each passing year. Loved ones come into your life, stay for awhile, maybe grow with you, and sometimes they leave. Sometimes unexpectedly. Sometimes it is through the losses we experience in our lives that we become aware that life is precious, our loved ones are precious and that we need to celebrate and enjoy our love and our lives every chance we get.

It is with this semi-deep introduction that I share with you our family tradition of celebrating not only our annual birthdays, but also our half birthdays. It is a tradition that I started about 15 years ago. I got the idea from a Hallmark greeting card advertisement. They were just trying to sell me more birthday cards and wrapping paper, but I saw an opportunity to have additional celebrations throughout the year. I like cake and gifts and happy parties. I like seeing my loved ones happy.

So I created my own version of half birthday celebrations. I will tell you about it.

First of all, a person's half birthday occurs 6 months after their last annual birthday (on the same date of the month, but 6 months later). In this case, we celebrated Jack's 1/2 birthday which occurs on July 30th. So this party happened last Wednesday evening.

After you have the date set, you need to gather the appropriate ingredients for your half birthday party. The most important of these you can see in the photo above, a homemade half birthday cake. Now this is not just a two layer birthday cake cut in half. It is a single round layer of cake, cut in half and then frosted as if it were a whole round cake. There is frosting in between the layers and slathered all around and on top. You can either make half the recipe for the whole round cake or make the whole recipe and save the other layer to eat as a snack cake at some later time.

Jack's half birthday cake shown above was made by me, and it is a zucchini spice cake with pecans. The zucchini of course was homegrown in my veggie garden. It is frosted with a lemon cream cheese frosting. Very tasty, smooth and decadent.

Then just like regular birthdays, half birthday gifts are another important ingredient. The difference in gifting for half birthdays, is that the gifts usually are less in number and less expensive more "fun" gifts. Not "gag" gifts, mind you. Just more along the line of trinkets or accessories. I said usually this is the way it goes. Well look at the pile of presents Jack received in the photo below:

Jack's Half Birthday Gifts

I think we did go a little overboard on the number of gifts for this half birthday. There were about twice as many gifts as usual. Between my gifts and Bob's, Jack did very well in the gift department. None were all that expensive, and some were quite fun, but I will get to that after I show you the "cake ceremony" as we refer to it around here.

We are on my front porch, half birthday cake aflame, and this is Jack waiting patiently for me to fetch my camera and take the picture before he can make his wish and blow out the candles. Note the colorful natural beeswax candles adorning the cake.

OK, I took the photos of the flaming cake, Bob and I sang "Happy Half Birthday" to Jack and then Jack was free to wish and blow. And blow he did!

One big breath of air blew all of the candles out. That means he gets his wish!

So now Jack gets to open his half birthday cards and gifts. His gifts were varied and all were useful things, from the barbecue cover and rain gauge from Bob, to the coffee gift card and watch repair tools from me. One gift from me caused great amounts of curiosity and hefting, feeling and shaking of the wrapped package to figure out what was inside, immediately followed by large amounts of laughter once the gift was opened and revealed.

What could it be that caused such fits of laughter?

Why, a homegrown zucchini, of course!

A big 1 1/2 lb homegrown dark green zucchini, freshly plucked from my garden that very afternoon. He loved it! I told him that I had to share some of the prolific zucchini and this was a good opportunity to do it. I am sure he double checked to see if he had locked his car doors or not. I gave Bob a zucchini "party favor" to take home and enjoy too.

After the cake ceremony and opening of the gifts, we had a nice dinner outside on my porch table. The menu consisted of Zucchini Parmesan seen below:

Zuke Parmesan ready to bake

Zuke Parmesan just out of the oven

Gotta use up that fresh zucchini!

We also had my famous Stuffed Broccoli Leaves which is sort of a cross between Greek dolmas and my Mom's Stuffed Cabbage Leaves. The broccoli leaves were from my garden. This is my favorite way to use the fresh broccoli leaves, although I do cook them as "greens" other times. Their taste, color and texture remind me of the grape leaves used in the Greek dolmas (stuffed grape leaves). They were delicious!

Stuffed Broccoli Leaves in the pot ready to cook

Cooked and about to be eaten! (A taste test by the cook)

After we had our fill of comforting dinner fare, we indulged our sweet tooth with zucchini spice half birthday cake topped with the natural vanilla ice cream that Bob contributed. The combination of the cool creamy vanilla with the sweet spicy texture of the cake was outstanding!

Zuke Cake and Ice Cream. Yum.

We finished the evening by watching an entertaining movie on DVD. A fun family evening at home. No crowds. No travel, traffic or parking. No waiting for service. Very comforting.

Half birthdays are a fun way to celebrate our lives together. A tradition that we will continue.

Bob enjoyed the party too.

© Copyright 2008 Mountain Harvest Basket


Farmgirl_dk: said...

Sigh. I guess my invitation must've gotten lost in the mail :-)
That looked like a very fun party! Love the idea of the half birthday cake to go with the half bday celebration - very cute, Jen! :-)
Zucchini cake, huh? Sounds delicious, especially with the frosting! Mmmm...I'm such a frosting girl.
I saw a recipe on another blog this morning for zucchini pickles!! (had never heard of that either!)
And now, just for Jack, I share our family birthday (or in this case, half birthday) song:
(sung while clapping hands)...
This is your half-birthday sonnnng...
It isn't very lonnnnng...HEY!


CaliforniaGrammy said...

What a grand idea . . . you get twice as many birthday parties . . . I like it! And the menu looks delicious, that zucchini parmesan, man I can almost smell its yummy scent. It was fun to see Jack laughing, that first picture of him waiting for you to take the picture—I wasn't sure if he was liking this idea. But, alas! He looks like he had a great time. Thanks for the great idea!

Hardware Bob said...

It was a very,very fun party, everything was absolutely perfect.

Jen definitely puts on a great party, and is very attentive to all he tiny details: The table setting, the drinks, the natural wax birthday candles,and other things I probably didn't even notice. Some would call it being a perfectionist, I call it love and respect for her men.

Jack totally guffawed when the monster zucchini was unwrapped. The zucchini Parmesan and Greek dolmas were scrumptious.

The half cake was the showpiece, absolutely incredibly delicious, and it's hard to believe a zucchini was the primary ingredient. I loved the crunchy roasted pecans, and the frosting was tangy and buttery. Seconds were mandatory.

I wasn't all that happy with the posted photograph of my nostrils though, but it was all in fun. All in all a memorable 1/2 birthday.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

But I feel I know you so much better, now, after that picture, HW Bob. :-) Besides, your nostrils even looked like they were having fun!

Joggin Jack said...

The party was great. The cake was outstanding! The zucchini theme is very timely since they are growing fast in your garden right now. A quarter of the cake came home with me. It only lasted a few days. It was really good with coffee in the morning. The zucchini gift was a crack up. Before I opened it I thought it was a club. Thanks again, Jen for a great party.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Danni,
Sorry. I didn't mail any invitations. You will have to be satisfied with virtual cake. I have seen recipes for zucchini pickles and also relish. I may can some if my zucchini continues growing in abundance. Loved your birthday song. Thank you so much.

Hi CA Grammy,
Nah, that's just Jack's "patient" expression. Hard to see the glimmer of his smile underneath that furry mustache. He laughs great! I love it! His face is so expressive when he gets into it.

Hi Bob,
Thank you for the praise for my party efforts. I do love you guys, but I am also a perfectionist and but of a control freak as you both already know. That cake did turn out well. I love that recipe. Very versatile. Your nostrils are very attractive. I wanted to share them with the world. See Farmgirl DK's comments.

Hi Danni,
You crack me up, my friend. I feel like I have known you forever.

Hi Jack,
Glad you visited and ventured a comment. I know it's not really your favorite thing to do. I really appreciate your praise of the party, and I am very happy that you had a good time. We had fun doing the celebration. I love our time together as a family. Wrapping the zucchini was a spontaneous thing that just felt "right". I am so pleased that it cracked you up. Exactly what I wanted.

Kathie said...

What a great tradition and way to spread the love and of course, cake.

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Kathie,
Welcome and thank you for commenting on my blog. I looked at your blog and found it very interesting. I am a Leo too.

Love and cake. Very good companions.

StickyGooeyCreamyChewy said...

Looks like you had quite a feast! My daughter was a New Year'sbaby, so we always celebrated her half birthday when she was little. It's a fun idea!

I tried to grow zucchini this year, but no go. I think I waited too long. It was just too darn hot for them.

Farmer Jen said...

Welcome and thank you for commenting on my blog. We did have a good time. Ate far too much. It's hard for me to imagine the weather being too hot for zucchini, but I guess since your location is more tropical than I am used to, it really could get too hot. You have mangos, citrus and other luscious goodies that I can't grow here though.

Twinville said...

Happy half birthday Jack!

But what? No zuchinni in the wrapped Broccoli leaves?
No zucchini ice cream either??

Now, wait! I bet you were watching Veggie Tales after dessert right?


That zucchinni/pecan spice cake with ice cream caused my nouth to water! Yummy!!

Twinville said...

Oh! And HW Bob's Nostril Photo oughta be on the top of your blog. It just exudes happiness and joy!

Made me break out into a smile at first glance :)

Farmer Jen said...

Hi Twinville,
Zucchini ice cream, hmmm...I hadn't thought of that. Might need to do that sometime.

Bob wasn't too happy about that photo, but then again he did pose for it...