Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fat Tuesday

The King Cake was oh-so horrible!! OMG! I think someone mistook bacon grease and black pepper for butter and cinnamon. EW. It was really bad. The brioche dough was good, it was just the center. It almost made me ill first thing in the morning! I had to call Merridee's and let them know someone definitely made a mistake with this one. And....we have yet to find the baby! No King or Queen today.

The kid took all his beads to school; but being in middle school and a pre-teen, he only wore a few out of all these. Of course, I did better than he did. I wore all of mine. I took mom to Ihop for breakfast--free pancakes on Fat Tuesday! Hey, they don't call it FAT for nuthin'.

Thank goodness, the red beans & rice turned out better than the cake. They're really easy to make, just a long cooking time. I actually had to cook them longer because I did cover the pot for a while, I had to leave for 1/2 an hour. I didn't want the piggy cat to get in there and boil herself trying to steal the ham bone.

My biegnets never turn out as good as Cafe Du Monde's, of course. I'm not good at pastries. Some of them puffed, most didn't--which is a good thing.

You only need to eat one; which means, four out of 10 is just right!

Phew, we're all stuffed and looking forward to fasting tomorrow. It all makes sense now.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Everybody Ready for Mardi Gras? AH-YEEEEE

Well I've been busy as a busy bee getting my stuff ready for Mardi Gras tomorrow. I'm not the best Catholic, by far. Being a convert is my excuse, and I'm sticking to that.

I've been celebrating Mardi Gras since before I became a Catholic though. Of course, I had heard of the Carnival in New Orleans; but I had never "celebrated" it as a day until I was working at USA TODAY. Our New Orleans' office would send us a King Cake from Gambino's with all the goodies each year. (I didn't link to Gambino's because the last couple of times I ordered from them, I wasn't satisfied with the quality.) I remember my boss once said "I wondered why you were wearing such tacky jewelry, your taste is normally quite traditional." ha. Oh yea, we all wore as many beads as could be distributed evenly among the office staff. It was such a fun day.

Since converting to Catholicism (because the hub was raised Catholic), I've learned more about the meaning of Fat Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and the forty days of Lent. Basically, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday; but for us party animals it starts with Fat Tuesday (or Mardi Gras in French) which is celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday in preparation for fasting and abstinence (no meat and little food) that day.

Catholics also go to Mass on Ash Wednesday and receive ashes on their forehead in the shape of a cross--thus the name. I always wondered growing up why some people would walk around with dirt on their foreheads. Live and learn. During the forty days of Lent, we sustain from eating meat on Fridays and, normally, give something up for the entire season--sweets, chocolate, etc. I like to rather do something extra, try and help the church more, say more prayers, etc. I think that has a much more positive influence on the kids.

Another tradition that I have come to practice is the making of Pysanky during Lent. Since I married into a Ukrainian family, I felt it was my duty to carry on as many of their rich traditions as I could. One Ukrainian tradition that I started right away was making Ukrainian Easter Eggs (pysanky). No one in the family made these, and being one who has always been "artsy," I decided I would start making them each year and pass the tradition on to my kids. I took a class at the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine in DC the year the hub and I got married. I've been making them ever since--with a break after we moved to Tennessee though. I will write more about that tomorrow, since that is the official day that I bring everything out of storage and blow the cobwebs off and get cracking--well, hopefully not cracking per se.

Anyway, I went out today and got my King Cake. I always wait until the last minute. I've said that before, I know. Some years, when I have my act together early, I order the King Cake from one of the bakeries in New Orleans. I didn't this year, so I found one at a local bakery here, Merridee's. We'll see how good it is. I've been disappointed in some King Cakes in the past. You can get them at several places in DC including Sutton Place Gourmet. Ok, WHEN did Sutton Place turn into Balducci's???? Oh well, let it go Rosa. Sooooo, as I was saying, all set on the King Cake. We normally slice it first thing in the morning to see who gets the baby. The tradition is that person buys the next King Cake the following year. My tradition is the person who gets the baby is King or Queen for a day. I used to take a cake in to each of the kids' classes with all the beads, doubloons and a crown. The child who got the baby wore the crown all day and was able to take it home with them. It was a lot of fun when they were younger. They've grown out of that, sadly.

I also pulled all my recipes out for our Mardi Gras including the luscious red beans and rice, which I traditionally serve each year. I order most all the ingredients-- that conveniently come together--from Gazin's in New Orleans. I tried to link it, but their site is down. I don't know if it has anything to do with Katrina or not. Their phone number is 504-482-0302. You can even order the French bread from there, but I never have. I'm going to give you the recipe tonight in case you're interested in making it. You need to soak the beans over night.

I can't wait until the morning. I think for dessert tomorrow night, I'll make some beignets from a mix I have used before. Yum yum. As you can see from my pic, I have my beans and Louisiana rice ready to go. I purchased the rice here locally at a shop in Nashville. Their rice is sooo good. Oh, and the "Community Coffee" is a traditional coffee served in New Orleans. I received it last year from Gazin's as a lagniappe--a little something extra. What a sweet tradition.

Red Beans and Rice
  • 2 lbs. red beans
  • 2 C minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 T minced parsley
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 2 lbs. seasoning ham, cubed (I use tasso)
  • 1 large ham bone (I use a frozen ham bone from Honey Baked that I rinse well)
  • 1 T salt
  • 1/2 t black pepper
  • 1 package red bean seasoning (hmmm, comes from Gazin's--use judgment on other cajun spices)
  • 1 smoked sausage, sliced (summer is good)
Soak beans overnight in cold water. Put drained beans in large (LARGE) pot with all other ingredients except sausage. Add water to cover and bring to oil over high heat. (I also use a container of chicken broth). Lower heat and simmer for 3 hours until beans are tender and have formed thick natural gravy. Stir and scrape sides of pot every 1/2 hour. They should be mushy.

Brown sausage in skillet and add to beans 1/2 hour before finished. If gravy becomes too thick, add 1/2 water. Serve over rice.

I'll post tomorrow pics of the process. This is so good.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Wonderful Friday Evening (A Wonderful Life)

The hub came home early, early enough to go out for happy hour. Wow. It's been a long time since we've been able to do that! I had been thinking earlier in the week it would be nice for the two of us (as in alone) to go out and have some quiet time. I knew just the place. A couple of weeks ago, when my friend and neighbor was moving, a bunch of her friends got togther to "drink" her away. We all met at Criallo's. I had heard of the place and had even driven by it, but I had never been inside. What a treat.

Criallo's is that local bar/small intimate restuarant that is frequented by the local 40s+ crowd. A piano bar is on the left as you walk in and about 15 tables or so on the other half. I didn't see a kid in the place. I guess I'm getting older (shhh, don't tell anyone), because I have come to appreciate this rare breed of an establishment. Don't get me wrong, I love taking the kids with us, and we really do take them every where we go; but it's nice to know there are places where adults can be adults when need be, ya know? I mean, we all like to dance naked on tables every once in a while, right?

Of course, we had just missed happy hour along with the tapas menu. (Tapas in Nashville??? Yea, boy-eee) Oh well. We sat back and enjoyed a couple of drinks while listening to the pianist. Oh so grown up. It was very nice. I always get the munchies after a couple madrases, so we looked on the menu and ordered a couple of appetizers--the Calamari a la Criallo and the Oysters Rockefeller. In the meantime, they brought out, compliments of the chef (oohlala) a plate of homemade breads. Yum. It included a small halved banana nut muffin, two slices of their pumpkin bread and a little piece of their foccacia. I'm a major bread fiend, so I was already in heaven--the munchies had definately set in. We were in for a further delight when the calamari was presented. The batter was so light and flakey with just a hint of curry. It was served with two kinds of sauces. One was a kind of sweet and sour sauce--not your normal Chinese carry-out thick sweet and sour. Oh no. This was really tasty and not sugary sweet. The second sauce was a chunky tomato/pepper sauce. Both were equally good for dippin'. It was tender and fresh and, I have to say, the best calamari I have ever had.

We were also quite pleased when they brought the oysters out. I'm not a big fan of the stuff, so I just ate the delicious topping off a few and let the hub eat the oysters. We're so compatible, aren't we? The topping included fresh spinach drizzled with garlic oil and a little cheese (I suspect parmigiano reggiano) broiled just until the spinach was limp but still juicy and the cheese slightly melted. We sat and listened to the lovely music for a while and just enjoyed each other's company. After we ate and drank and relaxed, we decided we better get home to the kid, which we did. (The teenager had his own plans for Friday night, of course. This included going to the local all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant with about 15 of his buddies. I'm sure the owners loved seeing them walk though the door--NOT!)

We waited a couple of hours before heading out to dinner. It's always a Friday ritual to drive around with the kid (and sometimes the teenager) going from restaurant to restaurant to see who has the least wait time. Since we had waited until after 8 to go out, we thought there would be a good chance of getting into a restaurant without having to wait for a table. Wrong. We all three then decided, unanimously (which is a feat in itself), that we would drive to downtown Franklin to see what was shaking down there. Franklin is a quaint little town with a few nice restaurants. It's mostly shopping though. We hadn't been in a while, so we thought maybe something new had opened up. We were lucky. It was our night! The little Italian place that had closed down last year--no big loss--had reopened into another little Italian place. Me and the kid had Italian on the brain, so this was perfect.

From the moment we walked into Palazzolos, we knew we were going to like it. The new setting has quite the "little neighborhood Italian place" ambience. Very cozy, yet enough room to get to your table without bumping into someone elses. The other place was so tight, you could ask what your "neighbor" was having and reach over to take a taste of it. Yep, a little too close for my liking. The menu is limited but very traditional with a nice variety. Since I was still full from "happy hour," I decided on the "Risotto with Shrimp" appetizer and a side salad. The hub ordered the special of the night "Pasta with Bolognese Sauce," the kid, his usual "Fettucine Alfredo with Grilled Shrimp." Any Italian restaurant that offers risotto is A-ok in my book. I had never even heard of the stuff until I married the half-Italian hub. Lord, what I was missin'!

When the entrees came out, we were truly in for a treat. The risotto was perfectly cooked, nice and creamy with just enough cheese to make it slightly gooey, with fresh baby peas. The four shrimp were grilled to perfection with enough flavor to stand on their own. The hub's bolognese sauce was to die for. I had tasted this good only once before. (In Virginia, my neighbor's mother made us a big batch one Christmas. Helen was the daughter of a professional Italian/French chef, so I want to say that this stuff was authentic. It took a couple of days to prepare it. She told me once all that went into making it--she told me too much--whole pieces of meat with the bones to get the marrow, etc. Too much information, ew. Anyway, the finished sauce was absolutey heavenly.) So when the hub's sauce came in even close to Helen's, I had to say "wow," out loud. The kid's alfredo was good, can't go wrong there. The shrimp, again grilled to perfection. We all were as happy as pigs in mud. The hub and I had found two local places that were out of the ordinary--in one night. How 'bout that? When chef Chris came over to our table to see how everything was, we expressed our enthusiasm for the quality of his dishes. He was, no doubt, pleased.

You know, it's hard to try new places with kids. Both of mine like their run-of-the-mill chain restaurants and don't like to wander off that radar too often. It's going to have to be up to me and the hub to get out once in a while to check out the local fare--the local adult fare, that is. We enjoyed ourselves so much Friday night!

P.S. I'm going to have to start taking my camera with me to get some pics, like every one else does (famous last words). These are all stock photos.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Carrot Cake for Kelly

My niece had a bouncing baby boy, Harrison, whom I will affectionately call Harry--I can't resist. He was a whopping 8 pounds, 6 oz.! He has Kelly's red hair so I thought I would make one of her favorite cakes, carrot. I wish I could box it up and mail it to them. We will enjoy it in her and baby Harry's honor.

I made this for Kelly's first baby shower and it was a hit. I was working at a small private school in Virginia at the time, and my friend there, Amy, gave me this recipe. It is the best carrot cake I have ever had. Amy always had the best recipes. The office couldn't wait for a birthday so she would bring in one of her goodies. We were kind of the black sheeps in the office. We would have to hide in her office and giggle about things that no one else would. We had the best time there. I miss her and her friendship. :-( The icing is one I found on Epicurious many years ago that I have altered a bit, of course. The ginger in it adds just a little flavor. I never have fresh on hand, so I use the crystallized ginger that I always keep in the pantry. It's good for upset tummies, and the kids don't mind eating anything that is sweet. Hey, me neither!

Here tis':

Amy-Lu's Carrot Cake

  • 3 C grated carrots
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 4 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 t vanilla extract
Combine and mix first 7 ingredients. Mix next three ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to flour mixture and mix well. Add carrots and mix. Pour in 2 oiled/floured cake pans. Cook 30 minutes in 350 degree f oven.

Be careful when you remove from pan. They are very moist. Cool well.


  • 12 oz. cream cheese
  • 12 T unsalted butter
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 2 t finely grated peeled fresh ginger or finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 5-6 C powdered sugar
Whip cream cheese and butter with vanilla. Add ginger and mix well. Slowly add powdered sugar until whipped creamy. Ice cake. (I am the absolute worse cake icer; I think I need to take a class one day.)

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

American Cooking Measurements

I was posed a cooking question from a fellow blogger today. Mark (who I refer to fondly as "Mr. England" in my head and from here on so--unless he objects), of Gullible's Travels asked:

"One question I have of Rosa, or anyone else who cares to answer, is why do Americans use Cups in their recipes? What is wrong with weights for solids and measures for liquids? A cup of a solid ingredient seems so imprecise (although I know cooking is an art not a science)."
In all honesty, I had never given it any thought as to why we in America use the cup/spoon measurement when cooking. (Does that make me a dumb American? Don't answer that.) I have converted recipes from friends in the U.K. using a cookbook chart or an online conversion service; but, again, I never gave it another thought. Since my roots are well established in the states for many generations (yes, I am quite the mutt, so to speak), I may pose the question to my inlaws, "Do you remember your parents using the metric system in cooking?" They are both first- and second- (I think) generation Americans from Italy and the Ukraine. It did make sense what Mr. England said regarding the use of available tools while pioneering. But I had to know. So I, too, did a Google search and this is what I found:

Interpreting & adapting historic recipes:

"Cooking the *real stuff* from original recipes sounds easy, but it's not...even if you're lucky enough to have access to ancient roasting pits, colonial beehive ovens, Conestoga kitchens and fireless cookers. What did the colonial housewife mean by when she wrote in her recipe "butter the size of an egg?" Exactly how hot was a "hot oven?" How did the Virginia housewife know when her hams were finished smoking? Was the Cincinnati housewife who cooked in the 1920s more likely to use single or double acting baking powder? This is complicated stuff. Historic hen's eggs were generally smaller than the ones we have today; hot ovens & smoked hams were a matter of experience and the preference/propensity for using *new-fangled* food items were (as they are today) a matter of money, tradition, and personal taste.

Truth is, most old recipes were not much more than shopping lists with cursory prep notes. Detailed instructions were not considered necessary because it was understood that whoever cooked the food already knew the basics. Measurements are time/country/food specific. Did you know some culinary historians say we Americans measure with objects (as opposed to weight) because of our pioneer heritage? Conestoga wagons had plenty of cups & spoons but very few reliable scales. Scientific oven temperatures and exact measurements had no place in pre-industrial kitchens...which explains why food was commonly *served forth* when it was *done.* Standard measurements and detailed cooking instructions were a by-product of the Industrial Revolution and are commonly attributed to Fannie M. Farmer, principal of the Boston Cooking School."

Yes, that old name most American cooks have heard but can't quite place: Fannie Farmer. Yep, she's the one who standardized the measurements that we use today in America. Here is an excerpt from the infamous 1918 edition of "The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book:"

How to Measure
"Correct measurements are absolutely necessary to insure the best results. Good judgment, with experience, has taught some to measure by sight; but the majority need definite guides.

Tin, granite-ware, and glass measuring-cups, divided in quarters or thirds, holding one half-pint, and tea and table spoons of regulation sizes,—which may be bought at any store where kitchen furnishings are sold,—and a ease knife, are essentials for correct measurement. Mixing-spoons, which are little larger than tablespoons, should not be con-founded with the latter.

Measuring Ingredients. Flour, meal, powdered and confectioners’ sugar, and soda should be sifted before measuring. Mustard and baking powder, from standing in boxes, settle, therefore should be stirred to lighten; salt frequently lumps, and these lumps should be broken. A cupful is measured level. To measure a cupful, put in the ingredient by spoonfuls or from a scoop, round slightly, and level with a case knife, care being taken not to shake the cup. A tablespoonful is measured level. A teaspoonful is measured level.

To measure tea or table spoonfuls, dip the spoon in the ingredient, fill, lift, and level with a knife, the sharp edge of knife being toward tip of spoon. Divide with knife lengthwise of spoon, for a half-spoonful; divide halves crosswise for quarters, and quarters crosswise for eighths. Less than one-eighth of a teaspoonful is considered a few grains.

Measuring Liquids. A cupful of liquid is all the cup will hold.

A tea or table spoonful is all the spoon will hold.

Measuring Butter, Lard, etc. To measure butter, lard, and other solid fats, pack solidly into cup or spoon, and level with a knife.

When dry ingredients, liquids, and fats are called for in the same recipe, measure in the order given, thereby using but one cup."

Fondly, I remember learning this exact form of measurement in the kitchen of my Jr. High School Home Economics class. (Yep, that's the woman herself.) All "young ladies" were encouraged by their mothers and 6th-grade guidance counselors to take this class in 7th grade. Maybe this is where I learned the name Fannie Farmer. I probably thought it was a made up from the sound of it and knowing how I was at that age. I also remember, not so fondly, the same year being told by my math teacher that the United States would be changing over to the metric system entirely within a couple of years. Was this a ploy to scare us into learning this "new" system? Evil teachers--we haven't switched over yet.

While researching all this info, I found another fascinating site that may be of interest to any cooks reading this lengthy, yet informative, blog entry. What is a Kitchen by Alice Ross. This touches on the history of kitchens both here and abroad.

Thanks Mark! I learned a lot from your question. Hope you did too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Thoughts & Prayers

All of my thoughts and prayers are being sent straight to my niece Kell who will be delivering her third child in the morning (if she can wait that long). We are all awaiting anxiously for the safe arrival of the new baby. (Don't forget to call me!!)

The Proof is in the Pudding

I was telling Bud, of Bud's Ramblings (and my fellow-Tennessean blogger), just last week that I knew spring was around the corner when we get a huge flock of robins--I mean hundreds if not thousands. It's right out of the movie "The Birds." Now I've seen huge amounts of black birds in the yard before, but I had never witnessed this amount of robins until moving to the Nashville area. Last year was the first time I had seen such a sight.

Well, folks of Middle Tennessee and areas close, I am happy to announce that "Spring is almost here!!" I noticed a few robins yesterday in the yard and wondered if this could be the beginning of their migration North. This morning when I woke up to get the kids off to school, I looked out the side door, and low and behold, there they were--a hundred or so. They stay for a day or two and eat all the berries off all the hollies in the neighborhood, and then they're off. We have five holly trees right on the side of our house, so I can witness this amazing "grazing" up close. It is fascinating to see so many in one place at the same time. There's a constant flutter in and out of the trees. I tried to capture this on film, but I couldn't get close enough without scaring them all away. I did, however, take these two before-and-after shots to prove my point. Shows you how much I knew. I always thought that robins only ate worms.

Left pic (I know a bit blurry--sorry, way too early) 6:30 a.m. Right pic 2 p.m. You'll have to click on them to enlarge to really see the difference.

Here's a website on tracking the migration of the American Robin that I'm trying to enter my sighting info into. Haven't had much luck yet getting logged in. Oh well, guess I'm going to sit back on this rainy day and just enjoy the flight of the robins.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"What's for Dinner, Mom?"

Yes, it's that age-old question I hear every day around 3 p.m. Sometimes it's even the day before. The kid loves to know in advance what the next meal is going to be, I guess so he can make other plans if need be.

Tonight's fare is quasi-leftovers. The hub made this wonderful roast beef Sunday (he is the chef on most Sundays) and we had quite a bit of meat left over. Since all the boys love roast beef hash, guess what we're having for dinner? You got it. Don't you love these simple foods that soothe the soul? Hey, anything cooked in one pot is a no-brainer for me.

Just dice the onion and garlic and saute in a little olive oil.

Dice potatoes into bite-size cubes and add after onions are opaque.

Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, then remove lid to brown.

Cube beef and add. Brown well.

Season to taste, and voila, dinner is served. Good with a little bread and a side salad. How easy is that?

And dessert? A slice of that wonderful sponge cake from last night, heated in the microwave for a second or two. Yum. Belly full.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Chinese Tonight

We decided on Chinese carry out for dinner tonight. I got to thinking about a post by Suanne and Ben at Chow Times for their steamed Chinese Sponge Cake. I've seen cakes "steamed" on several food shows, but I had never tried it. I'd been threatening that I was going to make their sticky rice, their pork rolls and a whole lot of other goodies they have posted recipes for. Since it was Chinese night, what better night to make that Chinese sponge cake for dessert?

Since I couldn't find my little rack that sits in the bottom of a pan to steam, I used a part to my wok that is used for draining items. It usually attaches to the side of the wok with three little hooks. I bent the whole thing in so it would fit in my pan and used pliers to move the hooks down a little so it didn't sit so high in the pan (I was worried about the cake rising and hitting the top of the lid). My contraption worked perfectly. I don't normally fry things in my wok, so I will never miss it for that use.

I followed their recipe exactly. I have to say that while it was cooking, it smelled very eggy. I wasn't sure if it was going to turn out or not. I even thought I may brown the top a tad in the broiler once it came out. But, when I lifted the lid after 25 minutes, it was so spongy and moist, I didn't want to do a thing to change it.

The hub and I sliced right into it only after a couple of minutes of letting it cool. Ben writes that it is best served warm. Oh my. Major YUM!!! You know what I liken the taste to? Crepes. Yes, Raphi, it has a taste of crepes but a much thicker version. (Raphael is our French exchange student.) It is absolutely delicious! Not too sweet, not heavy and very moist, as you can imagine. After a couple of bites of my slice, I sprinkled a little vanilla sugar over it, as I do my crepes. This is what Raphael says they do in France. It was very good. A little crunch of the sugar was nice. I may even add a splash of Grand Marnier in the batter next time, as I do to my crepe batter. But, it really isn't necessary. It is fantastic just the way Suanne and Ben make it. Thanks for sharing guys!! Without further adu:

Suanne & Ben's Chinese Sponge Cake 松糕

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 C flour
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t basking soda
  • 1 t almond extract (I used vanilla instead, said I could)
  • 1/2 C evaporated milk
  • 4 T melted butter
Sift the baking powder and flour together in a small mixing bowl. Mix the milk and melted butter in a cup and then add the baking soda to it. Set aside. Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add sugar and extract and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add the milk/baking soda/butter mixture to the eggs and sugar. Blend thoroughly using a whisk. Gradually add the flour mixture and blend until completely smooth. Pour mixture into greased 9-inch pie dish. Bring water to boil. Carefully (hot water!!) put pie dish on grate over water and close lid. Cook for 25 minutes. Remove carefully and put on cooling rack. Slice and serve warm.


They Say It's Your Birthday.....

Happy Birthday big bro. My, how you have aged!

Why, it just seems like yesterday when you were sitting on the sofa watching TV daring me or Jim to walk in front of it so you could pop us with your belt--taught by dad, no doubt, grin. I used to love how you would beat Jim up (because he was mean to me, pout). Remember when you told him to put a glass Christmas bulb in his mouth. He did. It broke. I did kinda feel sorry for him then, but not for long. I'm sure he beat me up for it. Or the time you both were fighting, he fell down on the floor and you put one of those 60s plastic blow-up chairs over his head and sat on him? I giggled, he couldn't breath, snicker. (I'm sure he beat me up that time too.)

You two had it made. You were allowed to do almost anything. You went to see The Beatles, hello, THE BEATLES. I was too young. (I just wanted to go and scream, that's all--girls.) You were able to go to Woodstock! Dad even DROVE you. Too young again, probably a good thing in hindsight. I remember, every weekend, mom and dad would pack us all into the station wagon to drive you downtown to the war demonstrations. I can't say how many times we were tear gassed after dropping you off. What wonderful memories of DC in the 60s. hehe. "Mom, is that a girl or a boy with the long hair?" (If you had been in the car, I'm sure you would have punched me! Jim probably did.)

Yes, you, you were always dad's favorite. He loved you best. You can tell by the size of this birthday cake!! By the time I came around, I was lucky to even get a cupcake for my birthday! (Kidding, of course.)

When you grew and went away, you were always on our minds and in our hearts. We saw you whenever we could. We were happy when you came home after high school. And then you were off again, off on your own. Living with Sid and Mary and Blue. Remember when you and Mary broke up? You came home and she followed you? Mom had to sober her up while you snuck out the back. Oh, to be young and in love.......grin. Now, tell me. Is that a NIXON button on your hippie vest? On your way to Woodstock???

Did you stencil this outside Central Photo? I bet it was YOU! The joys of working at the photo lab. From the time we could count, we were put to work, honestly--either selling souvenirs for Aunt Ollie or processing photos for dad. That was our extracurricular activities from a very early age. I think it made us appreciate the value of work and independence; Jim thinks it messed him up deeply--the difference between the middle child and the baby, I guess. You probably didn't care either way.

When you had your accident, it almost did dad in. You were his baby, his first born, his love child. I had to pull him together to get down to be with you. He finally did. He drove that big ugly yellow Cadillac (fondly named The Yellow Submarine--his favorite Beatles song--NOT) all the way to Texas to be with you and he stayed there until you came home. He spent every free moment with you during rehab and on Carlin Springs. We all tried to be there for you.

Now, time has passed, dad is no longer with us, mom is here with me and you and Jim are still be-bopping along up in DC. Today, as I think back on our childhood, our adult years and all that we have been through together as a family, I realize a lot of who I am today is because of you. I learned from your mistakes, I learned through your music, your ups and downs, good and bad. Your entire life was there before for me to learn from. Guess that's what big brothers are for.

I hope today is not just another day in your life. I wish you a very happy birthday big bro; and I hope that this year brings you the joy and happiness you deserve. I love you brutha.

P.S. A big ol' shout out to cousin James and brother-in-law Gerry! Happy Birthday guys!!



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