Despite the rain, Wednesday was a better day than Tuesday, and after the rains cleared in the evening the hummingbirds were out in full force. We saw as many as 7 around our feeder at one time (if you don’t own a hummingbird feeder get one; it’s really cheap entertainment) and Lee got some great pics. He also put the feeder right on his hand and they got super close. Had to share some of his amazing pictures because they really are so good, plus what’s not to love about hummingbirds? They are cheerful, industrious little birds. Plus the sunset was absolutely amazing, as it often is after a storm, and I got some pics of that as well.
So onto Thursday. As I have mentioned I don’t believe in coincidence. What are the odds that we would be practically next door to the people who were very instrumental in helping us choose this lifestyle on Lee’s first on the road birthday AND that Howard’s birthday would be the day before Lee’s? Astronomical? See, my brain won’t accept that. When the odds get into those high numbers I have to believe that something else is going on and God/Higher Power/the Universe (however you identify it) is in play. Your mileage may vary on that, heck I don’t even know if my kids buy into my philosophy, but it’s one truth that I feel pretty rock solid on. That being said, when we discovered a week ago the guys’ birthdays were so close Linda and I sat down to plan a little celebration. The interesting thing is that neither guy is much into birthdays. I love birthdays (big shock for those who know me), but Lee generally plays them down and Howard is the same way. Linda and I were having none of that though, and decided they were having a party whether they liked it or not!!
The first item up for discussion was food, and since they both love lasagna and Linda bakes a great one, she volunteered. It is not an insignificant amount of effort and she taught me how to make a lasagna, which believe it or not I have never done before, and I was really grateful. I have included her lasagna recipe below. Next we discovered Howard loves Caesar salad and since Lee’s first job as a kid was making Caesars from scratch table side at a restaurant, we decided to have him make Caesars for everyone. (That wasn’t my first job, it was my second job. My first job was busboy at the fabulous West Wind Steakhouse, at which I met Tracy and decided to marry her. I then waited seven damn years for her to get her act together. It’s also the first job I was ever fired from, because I was so giddy to be around her all the time at the tender age of 14 that the manager decided I was drunk from finishing off leftover drinks, which I was not. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t drink after other people, not even my own wife or kids. It’s gross. – Lee) This left me with little to do but the bread, and I was OK with that. Howard requested German Chocolate Cake and Lee of course wanted pie. Unfortunately I am not much of a baker, but Linda recommended a little bakery around the corner and they could make a dutch apple, which is Lee’s favorite. It was $15 for the pie, on the high side, but since he is not getting a drone (liked he wanted) for his birthday seemed a small price to pay. (This is why I am not into birthdays, by the way. I asked for a drone, and what I got was a pie, and being forced to work like some kind of indentured servant. If, by the way, you are reading this and have an extra $1000 you need to get rid of, just click here. – Lee) I did feel guilty though about how little I was contributing and decided to spend my lunch break picking raspberries. This is another thing I have never done and thankfully Carol, the super nice camp host here at The Pines , loaned me her hat netting. Picking raspberries is a ton of work and crazy buggy. They were yummy and went well with the cake and pie, but not sure its something I would want to do on a regular basis. (She lies. Putting raspberries on a Dutch apple pie is an abomination. Don’t do it. Think of the children. – Lee)
After we ate (the lasagna tasted as good as it looked) we lit candles and sang. Well, Linda sang while I murmured along. Then the guys opened their cards and little presents while we ate. It was yummy; the cake and pie were really good, and afterwards they taught us to play a game called Qwerkle. It is sort of like dominoes with shapes and colors and Linda was totally in the groove. She was the Qwerkle Queen and won both games. I was pretty happy I came in second both times, but the birthday boys did not do so well. (I was distracted. The lines made by the game pieces did not even come to close to lining up with the lines on the table. Also, I had raspberry seeds stuck in my teeth. – Lee) I had read about Qwerkle in Howard’s blog but it made a lot more sense as we played it. Plus, I really liked the way they explained the game, being very transparent about strategy techniques while we played. There’s nothing worse than playing a new game and having people hold back critical info until you make the mistake. Yes, we’ve all played with folks like that and not only does it take the fun out of learning a new game but can even make you feel stupid, which is the antithesis of fun. Howard and Linda not only helped us play but were happy to allow us to change some moves when we had made an obvious mistake. That made it a lot more fun, and Lee said he wanted to buy the game as soon as we left. It was another very nice night, and I was so glad we could share their birthdays. It’s really nice sharing those moments with people and unlike a sticks and bricks existence that is in no way a given.
Linda’s Lovely Lasagna
This is a really old family recipe Linda has been using for a long time. You can substitute ground hamburger for the Italian sausage but it’s not recommend as the Italian sausage really adds to the flavor. This recipe makes enough for two 9×13 casserole dishes. You can cook both and freeze one or halve the recipe.
- 3 lbs Italian sausage
- 1-1/2 cloves minced garlic
- 1-1/2 TBL basil
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 lbs canned tomato sauce
- 3 six oz cans tomato paste
- 3 eggs
- 4 cups ricotta cheese
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3 TBL parsley flakes
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 TBL pepper
- 2 lbs mozzarella cheese sliced
- 1 box lasagna noodles
- Brown meat slowly draining off excess fat
- Add additional sauce ingredients and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Cook noodles in a large pot of salted water until tender; drain and rinse
- Combine ingredients for ricotta cheese filling
- In a 9×13 casserole dish (Linda uses Glad Bakeware which works perfectly and is disposable) layers noodles (roughly 4 lengths per layer).
- Spread noodles with Ricotta mixture
- Add a layer of meat sauce (roughly 1/2 thick) so it covers noodles and ricotta
- Add a layer of sliced mozzarella cheese covering sauce
- Repeat steps 5-8
- Add a third layer of meat sauce
- Add a third layer of mozzarella cheese
- Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned (as seen below)
- Let stand for 20 minutes outside of the oven and then serve.
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