Tag Archives: birthday

summer visit to tuck



We’ve been busy lately – more so than normal, I think.  I took on a new job at work, have summer events for work (over on July 7!), all the normal summer busy stuff (garden to tend, berries to pick, lots of laundry to wash), and we’ve been getting ready for a distant cousin from France to come stay with us for the month of July.  She is 16 and coming to help out (maybe I’ll be a little less busy then), and to enjoy a visit to America.

Since we’ve been so busy, I really wanted to get away from everything for a few days and enjoy the summer.  And, we did so this past weekend at Tuckaseegee.  We were also there for Steven’s birthday, which was fun.  The weather was hot when we got there on Friday, and I quickly unloaded the car and jumped in the river.  Anne and Evva joined me.  It was so refreshing and I could just feel all the stress leave my body, washed away with the water as it flowed downstream.



We got out of the river in time for a thunderstorm, but there is not much better than listening to rain drum on a tin roof while you are frying sausages for supper. The kids quietly played cards in the bunks.  It was a sweet feeling.




It rained on and off all day on Saturday, but we had a pretty morning.  It has become a bit of a tradition in our family to open at least half of your birthday presents at breakfast on the morning of your birthday.  So, the children brought out some gifts for Steven.  He was thrilled with the ball Hythe bought for him, and loved the bunny I made for him (corduroy and sherpa from Storybook Toys).








Joined by a few friends, we spent the day playing kick ball, hiking to a water fall, and playing in the river.  The girls built an elaborate castle compound on a bar in the river, which they named Redwall Abby (since we were listening to that book in the car).   They spent hours on it.  I also found a ring snake in the house, which Hythe captured and claimed was his new friend.  He spent a few hours with it, basically cuddling it, until we finally convinced him to let it go.


Tucker also enjoyed the river – he loves swimming and fetching sticks.  So much so that he wore himself out and could barely move on Sunday – poor old dog.





colroing book

coloring book

Then, on Saturday night, we had Steven’s birthday cupcakes (he wanted “black with black icing”, which I interpreted at chocolate with chocolate icing) and he opened his remaining presents – some clothes from Phebe (grandma) which came in handy since he had dunked all the clothes I brought for him in the river, a coloring book made for him by Anne and Evva, and a busy book I sewed for him (pattern by Seamstress Erin).   He was so happy to have so much attention and so many gifts.

We came home on Sunday, worn out, happy, and ready to tackle the week (which, again, is busy!).


quick trip to the coast










We made a quick trip (that seems like an oxymoron since the whole visit seemed quick but the travel there and back seemed quite long) to the coast this past weekend.

The weather was beautiful on Saturday, but a bit chilly.  The children played and splashed in the river, and then begged me to let them go swimming!  Hythe was quite angry with me when I told him that, no, I had not packed his swim suit.  It was hard to convince them that getting in that frigid water on a cool day would quickly make them hypothermic (words, of course, they did not understand!).

We celebrated Anne’s birthday a few times over the weekend since we spent most of her actually day driving.  She loved all the attention and gifts.  And, they all loved playing with their cousin.

Sunday was a cool, cloudy day and we took a ferry over to Knott’s Island on the very northeast corner of NC.  The ferry ride was very cold, but fun for everyone.  On the island, I was impressed with the marshes.  The marsh grass was a golden brown and tall.  Blue water wove in and out of patches of the grass and the whole scene was just beautiful.  We visited a historic duck hunting lodge that is for sale, situated near the edge of the marsh.  The place was very odd, but interesting — so much potential, but so much work for whoever buys it and fixes it up.  The barn has 12 bedrooms in the upper floor!  It reminded me very much of the Whalehead Club on a smaller scale.  What could a place like this be used for now?  Private hunting/fishing lodge or home?  Summer camp?  Retreats?  The property (and buildings) have conservation easements on them.  I love the history of properties and especially the history of northeastern NC, so I enjoyed seeing this little part of history – and the whole trip was a bit of an adventure, even if it did mean that we got home about 3 hours later than I’d hoped!

birthday party round up











We had a joint birthday party for the two girls on Sunday afternoon at the Big House.  It was outside old-fashioned fun on a glorious warm spring day.  About 30 children showed up, as well as a few parents.  William and I (and one other awesome parent – seriously she was so good I thought she ought to hire herself out to organize kid games at birthday parties) organized easy games for the kids.  They played perpetual tag first, then we had a series of races/games: egg toss (those farm eggs are hard – eggs were literally bouncing across the yard multiple times without breaking), egg and spoon race, hula hoop relay, and sack race.  Then we had snacks and cake and ice cream.  I made two cakes, one for each of the girls.

Finally, we did pinatas – 2 of them – one for 9 and up and one for 8 and under.  The girls made their pinatas from paper grocery bags and decorated them with tissue paper and glue.  I doubled up the paper bags which made them surprisingly strong – everyone got at least two turns whacking the pinata.  I did not put a lot of candy in them (put in more stickers, tatoos, and a few simple toys), so the kids were disappointed and the parents were grateful.  By the second pinata, though, the candy had melted (note: don’t use chocolate in a pinata on a warm day) and was mushy – those kids basically did not get any candy (again: kids disappointed, parents grateful).  But, the pinata was fun and exciting and a favorite part of the party.

I consulted with the girls before the party and we decided that it would be better to ask friends not to bring presents.  For a number of reasons: we have plenty already, it would be too much (there were so many friends coming), and parents would feel obliged to buy two gifts.  That was perfect because all the focus was on having fun and playing with friends.  A few really close friends brought some very small gifts, and the girls got quite a few handmade cards that were really sweet.  So, it was very nice.

After the party, the children had a great time running down to see the chickens and horses, jumping on the trampoline and playing.  William and I cleaned up.  My biggest fear for the party was that I would lose someone’s child (which is highly likely at the Big House).  And it did happen.  About an hour after the party was officially over, I got a text from a dad asking me to bring his children to the farm store.  I had not seen those children for at least 45 minutes and had assumed their parents had picked them up.  Sure enough, I came across them a few minutes later, finding them under a boxwood bush building fairy houses.  Then, another dad showed up.  I had not seen his child in about an hour.  But, pretty quickly she came running around a corner with Evva.  They had been playing and running all over the grounds.

Kids got dirty, laughed, played hard – a good time was had by all.  We will probably do this again!


this dress



I made this dress for Evva for her 8th birthday last week, finishing it up just before bed the night before.  I used the Oliver + S Croquet Dress pattern and a beautiful green linen.  I bought 6 (six!) yards of this green linen on a whim when a wonderful local fabric store was closing down last year.  I had a thought to make a dress with a matching jacket for myself out of it.  But, then, at home I realized I would be wearing close to 6 yards of green. Though the color is beautiful (and why I bought it), I thought it would be far too much green on me at that point.  And, green really isn’t my color, at least in those quantities.  In this dress for Evva, though, it is perfect.  And, now I want to make myself (finally) something from that green linen.  But, what? (suggestions welcome)

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I also broke down and bought a few half yards of some Liberty of London prints.  Good grief, they are expensive (hence the 1/2 yards)!  But, so utterly gorgeous.  I used one of the prints to make the belt, bow, and waistband on Evva’s dress.  It worked perfectly with the green linen.  The waistband and bow were cut on the bias, so I was very careful how to be conservative with the fabric.  I had to sew two strips together for the waistband, but it worked out well.  The other slight challenge with this dress was that Evva is so thin that she measured a size 5 for the dress.  I cut out a size 6, but when she tried it on, it was quite short – then, I remembered, she is tall and thin and not just thin.  So, I cut a 5 inch cuff to sew onto the bottom of the dress to give it a bit more length.  This actually improved the look of the dress as well.  I kind of wish I had one of these dresses myself.  She loves it and you can tell it is comfortable, light, and easy to wear, when she has it on.   And, I love that I can make her a special dress for her birthday (that she likes, too!).



birthday gifts

My mother is one of my best friends — however, she also still remains my mother in that she gives me advice, chides me, supports me in a way only a mother can. And, she does support me. She is always there for me to talk to or ask for help. I appreciate how strong and wise she has been in so many ways.

Her birthday is today and about a week ago I went into my fabric stash (expanded in large part due to her giving me a shopping spree at a fine fabric store’s going out of business sale) because I wanted to sew a gift for her. As I was pulling out things from the back of the stash, a nearly finished length of hand-sewn quilt fell out. It was a something I picked up from my grandmother’s when she told me to take anything I wanted out of her fabric stash. A length of squares sewn together, and some solitary squares, all hand pieced and quilted and made from the bridesmaid dress my mother had worn in her sister’s wedding about 40 years ago. It was beautifully cut and sewn but the project (was it going to be a bed quilt?) was abandoned. I decided to finish the section I had to make a table runner out of it for my mother. Her mother has a large part of this gift as well, as she had the plan and did all the cutting and sewing. I just finished this piece. The colors and pattern are not really my mom’s style, but I thought it was too beautiful to pass up and that it would look great on her dining room table.

My mother did like it and I am so glad that it might be used and shown off, finally, after all these years. It is truly beautiful and deserves some admiration. Just like my mom!




In our home, half of our birthdays occur within five weeks (exactly!) of each other, from early March to early April–Evva, Anne, and myself. I think of it as the birthday “month”.


Around here, birthdays are important days to be honored. When I was young, the chair of the birthday child wad decorated, there was always a homemade cake, presents, and family party, and usually there was a party with friends. William and I carry on these birthday traditions and have added a few more. It is a nice way to honor the birthday person and celebrate their entry into this world.


My grandmother (Mom-mom) brought most of the birthday traditions to the family when she married my grandfather (Dado) and moved to his family’s farm, where they lived with his parents, brother, and sister. For a few weeks after they settled in, during the summer, the family would get dressed up every Friday afternoon and go to town to visit the market and do shopping. The week before my grandfather’s birthday, during one of these to-town trips, my grandmother went to the bakery and secretly ordered a birthday cake to be made and picked up the next week. The next Friday, my grandmother was excited but thought it odd that no one mentioned her husband’s birthday. She got dressed after dinner and ready to go town but was dismayed when the men headed back to the fields. She started crying and my grandfather asked her what was wrong. She had to admit that she had ordered a cake for him thinking they would be going to town as normal. I think he was bemused by his “city” bride (his family did not celebrate birthdays), perhaps a little put out to have to give up an afternoon of work to drive her to town to pick up his birthday cake. But, he did it, and that experience established the importance of honoring birthdays in our family.


Bake on Tuesday: Mae’s Cream Cake


So, this past week was Evva’s 7th birthday (my baby girl is growing up)!  And, even though I don’t think my cakes are anything spectacular (you should see my cousin Susan’s cakes), I have become known in the Hamilton family for making good cakes. I have an old Southern Living cake book, inherited from my grandmother, that I often use to find a good cake to make. Some of those recipes are quite old and complicated. However, I usually make the simplest cake possible–one where I don’t have to beat the egg whites separately and it comes together quickly and easily–with an easy buttercream icing. That usually means lots of butter to keep the cake moist and tender, which is fine by me. I love butter.


But, since I was doing this baking series, I thought I’d look in my great-grandmother’s recipes and see if she had a cake recipe that would be appropriate for a child’s birthday (a basic layer cake–no nuts or dried fruit). And, I found one: Mae’s Cream Cake. But, the recipe did not make sense to me–there was no butter! There was cream, though, so I went ahead and made the cake. Because there is not butter to cream, it had a different type of construction.

The cake was good, not the best I’ve ever made. Maybe a little on the dry side, but that was probably because I overcooked it. There was no baking time in the recipe, so I just tried to keep an eye on it, which is hard with many little ones running around needing help with projects, dressing, changing, etc., not to mention I was also trying to get my act together to get ready for a day out and about with children.


Anyway, everyone loved it. It was frosted with a chocolate buttercream and decorated by the little ones. It has now disappeared and I will probably make it again for another birthday.

I buttered and floured the pans, but ended up only using 2. My panes are 9″, so maybe 8″ pans would have made a three layer cake as the recipe indicates.

Folding in the egg whites.
My little taster was very eager to try the cake.

Little hands decorated the cake.

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday, Evva!

And, here is the recipe with my notes added.

Mae’s Cream Cake
1 1/3 cup sweet cream
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 ½ cups flour measured after sifting
3 eggs
3 tsp. B. P. [this is baking powder, if anyone didn’t get it]
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat egg yolks till creamy
Add sugar, beat thoroughly, alternate cream and flour. Add beaten egg whites, save 1/3 cup sugar to beat in egg whites.
Bake in 3 layers.

**My notes begin**
So, if anyone did not really “get” this recipe, you are supposed to beat the egg yolks till creamy, then add 1 cup of sugar and beat again. Then add vanilla, then alternate adding flour (mixed with baking powder) with the cream, starting and ending with the flour (i.e. add 1/3 of flour mix, 1/2 of the cream, 1/3 of the flour, other 1/2 of cream, then finally the last 1/3 of flour–mixing each addition till just mixed in). Then beat the egg whites with 1/3 cup of sugar till soft peaks are formed, and fold the egg whites into the mix. I baked at 325 till done, but you could probably bake at 350.

Any bakers out there, chime in with tips on this type of cake, if you wish.

Also, family–who was Mae?