Category Archives: Birthday Club

High Teas and Birthday Parties: Killing Three Birds with One Party

high-tea               Well, hopefully we didn’t really kill any birds, bees, or bodies, quichebut we really did have fun last week with our annual high tea, and I wanted to share recipes for a couple of high tea staples: cucumber sandwiches and scones. lettuce-wraps      But first, the story, since if there’s anything I love, it’s to repeat a good tale! candle-in-a-tea-cupAfter meeting for several years to spoil each other on our birthdays, Cindi, Susan, and I started feeling a bit guilty for not including our spouses somehow,birthday-cake-flourless-chocolate-torte since they were always working hard to make it possible for us to be “at home” moms who could celebrate birthdays together (now that our kids are grown up).birthday-cakeSo, we started the tradition of a winter high tea (given that the way to a husband’s heart is half through his stomach). birthday-partyRex and Steve’s birthdays are exactly one week apart, so it’s pretty easy to celebrate both their birthdays by scheduling the tea on the weekend in between! korean-beef-kabobsWe each bring two savory and two sweet offerings, drink many cups of tea, savor the sweetness of a leisurely evening together, and go home feeling quite happy. sesame-seedWhen I was a young bride, one of my mentors said her theory on marital contentment was, “Keep him jolly from a little too much eating and groggy from a little too much lovin’.” sharing-a-high-tea-together     In forty-three years, I haven’t found a reason to dispute her wisdom!  🙂

Here’s my recipe for cucumber sandwiches, which I’ve eaten at every high tea from the great Northwest’s Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, to the Southeast’s Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian in Disney…to London’s Harrod and on many a Princess cruise sailing in the deep blue seas of the world. If you’re going to have an authentic high tea, you really need cucumber sandwiches, and they’re about the easiest thing in the world to make!

cucumber-finger-sandwichesCucumber Finger Sandwiches

1 cucumber sliced very (key word) thin, preferably in a processor. I learned this secret from someone married to an Englishman: Press the cucumber slices gently between paper towels to remove the excess juice.

8  oz. well softened creamed cheese. Stir together gently (not in a food processor).

truffle-saltFlavor with a pinch each of truffle salt (okay, sea salt or table salt works too), pepper, garlic and onion powder (powder, not salt; be careful not to oversalt), basil, dill weed, and chives. Chill.

To serve, slice the crusts off plain white bread and prepare them, but don’t fill the sandwiches until the very last minute, because they’ll get soggy in no time if they sit around. Make up your sandwiches and cut them in half  just when you’re ready to serve them.

gluten-free-blueberry-sconesGluten-free Blueberry Scones

Scones with clotted cream and jams are another classic staple of high teas. Susan needs gluten-free options, so I made these with gluten-free flour, but you can make them exactly the same way using regular flour:

gluten-free-bisquick2 cups Bisquick (gluten-free or regular)
1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter
3 eggs
1 T. milk

Blend in a mixer only until all the ingredients are mixed. Don’t overblend, or it will make them tough. Add 1 pint blueberries, stirring them in very gently by hand with a spoon. The mix will hardly stick to the blueberries, but it needs to be coarse or the scones will be too wet when they bake. Form into 12 balls (flour your hands if you need to) on a cookie sheet. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 350° for 20 minutes. Turn up the heat to 400° for 5 minutes or until just starting to turn a golden brown.  Serve warm with whipped cream and jams. (The classic term is “clotted” cream, but I make mine “clotted” by whipping it until it’s almost stiff…but not yet butter, and I add 1 T. sugar per cup of cream, but I’m a sugar hawk. You don’t have to do that.)

plate-of-finger-foods-at-high-teaThere is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24)salami-and-pepper-roll-ups

 

Banana Crepes…Extraordinaire!

banana-pancake-dessertFor 40 days I was on a strict diet, eating only fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy products. It worked great, and I lost some weight as a bonus, although it made celebrating my birthday a little more tricky. banana-pancake-dessert-2Cindi and Susan were more than up for the challenge, however, and came up with a birthday dessert that looked and tasted totally yummy! Just in case any of you are looking for a nutritious way to have a spectacular gluten-free, dairy-free, pie-in-the-sky yummy treat, this is what they did:banana-pancakeThey made a stack of 4 banana pancakes. These were made from mashing 1 banana and two eggs together. That’s it! Well, the more pancakes you want, the more batter you need, but the ratio stays the same: 1 banana+2 eggs (for 4 pancakes they used 3 bananas and 6 eggs). You can also add a dash of cinnamon and a dash of vanilla if you want, but that’s not crucial.banana-pancake-flipThe batter looks something like crepe batter once it’s nicely whipped. They poured it out onto a hot, well buttered skillet, and let it brown until it bubbled.banana-pancake-brownedThen, they flipped them over and browned each banana cake until golden. Cindi and Susan made “whipped topping” from whipping coconut cream until frothy. It’s mildly sweet (and because I was on a sugar-free diet, it really tasted sweet). Each banana crepe was frosted with whipped coconut cream and then ladled with some type of fruit: fresh raspberries, blueberries, peaches, slivered almonds (or use whatever you love best). After the concoction was so loaded with fruits and nuts we weren’t sure how we’d ever  divide it up, we did…and it stayed pretty intact. banana-pancake-dessert-3It’s filling, but it didn’t make us feel overfull or sick, the way some extravagant desserts do. In fact, we felt delightfully virtuous in our decadence because it was made from “guilt-free” ingredients and was really quite nutritious!   🙂  What great friends to go to such bother to make a birthday treat I could eat!

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17)

The Birthday Club Previews ArtPrize 8…Including my Entry

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-mural-at-the-holiday-innYesterday our birthday club met to celebrate my birthday, knowing that once ArtPrize 8 begins tomorrow, I won’t have a minute to catch a breath until it’s all over. Besides, we wanted to celebrate my entry, which is at the Holiday Inn. singing-at-vans-pastriesBut, first the girls had a wonderful surprise for me! vans-pastriesWe stopped at Van’s Pastries, vans-pastry-shopwhere they have an old-fashioned hymn sing to begin the week
every Monday morning at 9:00! standing-in-the-doorway-of-vans-pastries-to-singWhat fun! It was so crowded that we had to stand in the doorway,
and more folks just kept coming.

hymn-sing-at-vans-pastries To start the day praising the Lord brightened my scan more than five cups of coffee could have, and we even got to catch up with a dear friend, “Uncle Charlie,” now retired from Children’s Bible Hour. kathryn-w-armstrongs-artprize-8-muralSecond stop was to check out my ArtPrize Entry, titled “From the Rising of the Sun,” based on Psalm 113:3, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the LORD’s name is to be praised.”

from-the-rising-of-the-sun-second-halfI still need to finish up with the lighting and various other projects,
but hopefully everything will be in order for the official start tomorrow morning.sunshine-snack-along-the-grand-river By then, it was time to stop for “Elevensies,” and the girls picnicking-along-the-grand-river—knowing I’m on a diet—made the most magnificent banana/egg pancakes
with fruit, nuts, and coconut cream topping! It was amazing and tasted great! banana-egg-pancakes-with-fruitIn fact, I’ll make a separate post to share the recipe when I get a chance! public-museum-of-grand-rapidsAfter our respite by the Grand River, we headed out to see what else we could see of the ArtPrize pieces that are already installed. color-me-orangeOf course, with 1,453 entries at 171 venues, we barely scratched the surface, devos-hall-conference-centerbut we had fun, and I now know there’s a lot of excellent competition! migration-of-monarach-butterflies-sculptureWe could have spent all day (had we had the leisure), marie-catribs-in-grand-rapidsbut our last stop (before ending at my house for a prayer time) was a late lunch at Marie Catrib’s, where there’s always a great selection of veggie dishes.choosing-dishes-at-marie-catribs We all chose the “Choose 3 Salads” option, pick-3-veggie-lunchand I came home inspired with some new ideas
for how to eat light and still ‘licious! enjoying-lunch-at-marie-catribsI have to say, it’s great to have friends who are so supportive, not only of what I’m trying to do (like ArtPrize), but what I’m trying not to do (like overeat). elevensies-along-the-grand-riverThank you, Lord, for faithful friends! I want to be a faithful friend too.quote-by-martin-luther-king“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).

The Birthday Club: Bike Rides and Covered Bridges

Fallasburg Covered BridgeOn my trip to France, I had a dream one night that our birthday club was seeing all the D-Day sites, and since that night I’ve become obsessively enamored
with the idea of writing a novel about our birthday club traveling the world. Photo of Three SistersHowever, I will state up front that if this book ever comes to pass, the characters will not reflect the persons of my two dear birthday buddies—absolutely and unequivocally—as I have a friend who wrote a book with a character suspiciously like me, of whom I did not at all approve, and so I wouldn’t want my real friends to disown me for misrepresentation.

Nona's Restaurant. Ada MIStill, the adventures we have on our birthday club outings are truly a blessing, and so I’ll share this spring’s adventure with you. Flat River GrillFor a starter, the two non-birthday members go into cahoots
planning a surprise for the birthday honoree, Ada Covered Bridgeand this time Cindi had two irresistibly bright ideas for spoiling Susan: Biking near Ada Covered Bridge MITo go for a bike ride,Birthday Club at Ada Covered Bridge and to visit two (of the only eight remaining) covered bridges in Michigan.

Flat River in Fallasburg County Park MIAlthough Alan and I spent years riding racing bikes together as the #1 event in our favorite Date Night Triathlon (followed by #2. soaking in a hot tub and #3. eating out), I haven’t been on a non-tandem bike in years, so riding brought me straight back to my childhood, and I came home telling Alan that we need to start biking again! (Big advantage of Birthday Club: Trying new [or old] things!)Lunch at Nona's in Ada MIThe second event in our Birthday Club Marathon was lunch at Nona’s in Ada, MI which has just opened a new restaurant. (Cindi’s daughter is working as a prep chef there this summer. The mushroom ravioli is awesome, just so you know!) The third event was touring the little village of Ada and their Tuesday Farmers’ Market (in the parking lot of Ada Community Church, where my son Stephen served as the pianist for several years). Ada County ParkI was riding my bike as inexpertly as a teen just learning to drive, so I didn’t dare bring along my camera. Therefore, most of the photos from Ada are compliments of Cindi’s photographic skills. (Thanks, Cindi!) We also biked through Ada Township Park and stopped to enjoy vistas of the Thornapple River from the Ada Covered Bridge.

Fallasburg Covered Bridge InformationAfter parking our bikes, we drove to the Fallasburgh Covered Bridge
along the Flat River near Lowell, MI, Fallasburg School Museum. MIwhere there are a number of old, historic buildings left from the mid 1800’s. Fishing at Fallasburg County Park MIIt was a perfect summer day, breezy and beautiful, and as we meandered along, Cindi read verses from the Scriptures to remind us that God “covers” us
and listens with tender affection to our prayers,
the way a loving Father attends his children. Verses on Covering(This was inspired by the “covered” bridge theme.) Dessert at the Flat River Grill. Ada. MIThe day ended with coffee and dessert at the Flat River Grill
and sharing some birthday presents, Sisters!but the sweetness of our fellowship and God’s love for us
has lingered past the sweetness of our dessert. Birthday GiftsTruly, God’s love is our best gift! He is our inheritance, our covering,
and our “exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).Fallasburg Covered Bridge. Vergennes. MII will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.” (Psalm 61:4)