Saturday Smile: Birthday Celebrations

After starting out the week with some very bad news about the death of our neighbor, it was nice to have a high point midweek on Wednesday as we celebrated my sister Bec’s birthday. For quite a few years, Bill and I have been blessed to be included in the birthday dinner. In fact, some four years ago or so, we were at a Cajun restaurant in west Mesa, and who should walk in but former Phoenix Suns superstar Charles Barkley. Without giving it any thought whatsoever, I grabbed my niece and nephew by the hand and marched over to where he was being seated and politely asked if I could take a picture of him with the two kids. He couldn’t have been nicer. I’m glad he was because when I told my brother what I had done, he informed me that Barkley had once thrown someone bugging him through a window. Phew. Dodged that bullet…..

This year we didn’t have any celebrity sightings, but had a hellava good time nonetheless…..

Being with family always makes me smile.

Have a great weekend.

Saturday Smile: Dad, I Just Found Another LaBron

I took Kaiya and Mylee to see Finding Dory yesterday, and it was so, so good. I can’t recommend it enough. I wanted to make sure we had a good seat, so I upgraded to the VIP seats, which included wait service. So we had our server bring us soda and Mylee had Twizzlers, brought to her on a tray. La dee da.

They came for dinner last night, and after we ate, we went to sit outside. The kids all went to the sandbox/playhouse area and commenced digging for gold. They found rock after rock after rock, all of which they were convinced were some kind of valuable gemstone. Because Daddy knows everything, they would bring each rock to Court and ask him what kind of rock it was.

He started naming them. He, of course, had no idea what kind of rocks they were, but that didn’t stop him. He started out with names of basketball players. There was the LaBron, and the Barkley. He moved on to 60s rock stars. You had the Lennon and the Morrison and the Hendrix. After running out of 60s rock star names, he moved on to television. There was the Benes and the Kramer and the Costanza. And so forth….

We were laughing so hard, because the kids believed every word he said, with not even the slightest doubt. Kaiya told him, “Daddy, you really know your rocks.”

My fear is that they will get into their high school geology class and when the teacher says a particular rock is granite, they will argue with him/her and say, “No, that is definitely a LaBron.”

kaiya mylee play doh

Have a great weekend.

Thursday Thoughts

Like Chasing a Rabbit
I’ve had a Fitbit for a couple of years now. Fitbits, as you know, measure your activity. My daily goal is 10,000 steps, and I reach it on the days I work out; other days I have to work a bit harder to reach the goal. One of the incentives is that you compete against others, who agree to compete against you. Bec’s grandchildren got Fitbits for Christmas, and shortly thereafter, they asked me to be on their list of “friends” against whom they compete. I can look at any time and see how I’m faring against the others, and let me tell you, when it comes to Mackenzie and Carter, it isn’t a pretty picture. It’s seriously like competing against Jack Russell Terriers. The numbers are given in 7-day averages, and Carter is always, ALWAYS in the hundred-thousands. How can I possibly compete against someone who has Running Club in the morning and plays soccer every day at recess?  I’ll bet on any given day, he has beaten me by 9 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure he gets up during the night and just runs up and down their hallway for an hour. I wonder if Bill would notice if I did that……

Rich and Famous
I truly wonder how many famous people I have walked past without ever seeing them. When the family was in NYC a number of years ago for Heather’s college graduation, every once in a while as we walked the streets of NY, Allen would say, “Oh look, there’s Yoko Ono,” or “Did you see him? That was Alan Rickman” (the guy who played Hans Gruber in Die Hard (may he rest in peace). In 1995, Bill and I were in the Oak Bar at The Plaza Hotel in NYC having a drink, when Bill said to me, “There’s Marcia Clark.” If you will recall, Marcia Clark had her 15 minutes of fame because she was the prosecuting attorney in the OJ Simpson trial. So it’s of very little surprise that the other night, when we were out to dinner for Bec’s birthday and suddenly there was some commotion at the door, I paid ABSOLUTELY NO ATTENTION. This, despite the fact that a giant of a man accompanied by a bevy of people had entered the Cajun restaurant where we were dining. It was Erik, who actually had his back to the door, who casually said, “Huh, there’s Charles Barkley.” Well, I looked up and confirmed that it actually was the former Phoenix Sun great himself. After getting past being stunned by his sheer size, I made a very quick decision. I grabbed Mackenzie’s and Carter’s hands and briskly led them through the crowded restaurant to his table, just as he was getting ready to sit down. I politely asked him if he would be willing to let me take his picture with my niece and nephew. Now then, that could have gone south very quickly. After all, I was interrupting his private dinner. But it didn’t. See……

Charles Barkley Carter Kenz 1.16

When I’m rich and famous, I’m going to be as nice as Charles Barkley.

Cake Wars Continues
Bill isn’t the only one in this family who can bake. I made some cupcakes from scratch yesterday afternoon, using a wonderful Barefoot Contessa recipe. I changed them up a bit by using leftover icing from Bec’s birthday cake as a filling. I put the icing – a mixture of cream cheese, marshmallow fluff, and powdered sugar – into a squirt bottle and filled the chocolate cupcakes with the cream before icing them.  They were delicious.


Chocolate Cupcakes, courtesy Ina Garten and Food Network

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Nana’s Notes: The Barefoot Contessa wouldn’t even consider OWNING a plastic squirt bottle, but too bad, her loss. The filling makes the cupcakes good. And, unlike Bill, I used store-bought frosting. So there.