The end of my birthday

The last few days became so busy, both emotionally and professionally, that I never even finished blogging about my perfectly awesome birthday.

(Gayle’s Portfolio)Art by Gayle Hendricks
(Click image for her portfolio)

That may have something to do with the bottle of Vouvray the teenager and her father selected for me to accompany a most amazing cheese and fruit platter with charcuterie that they provided for my birthday dinner.

The meal came courtesy of a trip to Wegmans and included a block of applewood smoked Gouda, dill ha art I, and intense Brie. The fruits were white grapes and some succulent watermelon. A fresh baguette. Some Italian meats, include prosciutto. (Which I love to say in my best Sicilian accent) and silly cupcakes.

And the morning after my birthday I breakfasted like a princess in chocolate dipped fruits and a cookie and a tea from Dunkin’.

And yesterday I made the birthday Spam by mom brought me. On Wonder Bread for the teenager. Me. Accordion was jealous. He offered me some recipes.

This might be why my Corona weight gain is up to 10 lbs.

The artwork featured above is by Gayle Hendricks.

My friend Gayle appears in this blog from time to time, for our silly adventures, long walks or random road trips. She is a fantastic graphic designer with a very clean style. She specializes in typography and can set books in both traditional and electronic formats. I connected her portfolio to the image above, which she made for me representing my flock. (She altered a stock image in Adobe illustrator.)

Please consider her if you need freelance graphic design and know we are available as a team. I handle the editorial and she handles the pretty stuff. And we’re efficient.

And we celebrated my 40th birthday at a Trampoline Park.

Sky Zone (Gayle’s blog—5 years ago!)

More on our silly adventures:

Niagara Falls

Honey Nut Cheerios

State Parks Weekend

Volkssport Trip to Maryland

Littleton, NC

South Carolina

Birds and beasts in Georgia (This was the day I became interested in birds)

Now today:

But back to more memories:

My first visit to Waffle House

The Juliette Gordon Low House (founder of Girl Scouts)

The teenager buys a bugle

Pre-Birthday Magic

Many years ago I bought a silk slip on clearance in a beautiful teal blue color that matches my current bedroom. Because it’s a full slip, and such a strange and rich color, I never found a dress I could wear with it.

Last night I decided to wear it as a nightgown. I felt so fancy.

I was so cozy in my silk slip I didn’t want to get dressed. I thought a good way to compromise would be to wear a dress. And I got a new dress from The Attic that I haven’t worn.

I did my make-up and everything.

Now to make things more interesting I managed to convince my dad that we should have a socially-distanced picnic to celebrate my birthday and my step-mom’s birthday which are both tomorrow. I really want to cook these on the grill, and I don’t have any charcoal for mine.

And I had to order these. They sound so good! And when I ordered them from Tucker Silk Mill, I ordered fresh dill, fresh ginger, fingerling potatoes, sweet potatoes, golden beets, cauliflower, and purple peppercorns. The Vietnamese purple peppercorns were a birthday splurge.

And I never had golden beets, but I don’t really note any difference between those and regular beets.

I hung a load of wash outside and noticed so many lily of the valleys. At the front of the house my roses are finally blooming. I can’t wait to bring bouquets into the house.

At work today we still didn’t come to any agreement on when I can take my vacation.

I was working on my laptop on the sun porch when two women starting taking photos of my flowers. I heard them comment how beautiful my roses and irises are. I said thank you and started them as they hadn’t seen me.

They had been worried someone would yell at them for being in my yard. I laughed. No, I said, you are welcome. They took photos!

The teenager arrived home with the lemon cardamom cake she baked at my request for my birthday.

Recipe from Spice TrainLemon cardamom cake (click photo for recipe) On my 30-minute lunch break, the teenager and I ran down to Tucker to get my impulse buy of vegetables and then headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for my free birthday coffee which they completely screwed up. The teenager got some more of her special Dunkin stones from the side of the drive through.

(For more on the teenager’s fascination with the magical uses of these particular stones… it started here: Thank You Tucker Provisions with our last visit to Tucker. Apparently each time we go to Tucker, I let my daughter pick up random rocks at Dunkin.)

But she has always valued the power in rocks.

And honestly, I’m glad they screwed up my coffee and gave me a smaller weaker drink because I submitted four grants to my executive director today so my nerves were shot. I had just enough time to bring these goodies into the house before I had to clock back in!
My provisions from Tucker

The kittens and big old Oz gathered around me while I worked. My mother-in-law gave me a birthday card with money in it and my dad sent a really cute cupcake card with a check.

Then the teenager and I walked down to CVS to get my prescription and my neighbor who owns Sobaka, the Maltese yorkie mix, joined us. This gave the teenager a chance to try the new dog training clicker I bought her from Petco.

And I got my free nail polish from CVS for my birthday.

I came home and roasted vegetables, are cake and watched Star Trek The Next Generation with my daughter.

An easier Monday

I struggle a lot with my birthday and holidays. I always have the best hopes and best intentions but somehow my mood often sours.

My birthday is Wednesday.

And the fact that I have three major grants due this Friday doesn’t help.

And I’m disappointed that my boss hasn’t approved my vacation for next week.

But today took an unexpected turn…

I drank too much coffee, consumed too much sugar (a sour cream doughnut and too many jelly beans), and somehow managed to draft two of those grants today.

Now I’m sure I will be asked to redraft and revise five times by Friday… but part of me hopes maybe I could take my birthday off. Maybe I can have a vacation.

The teenager left for her grandmother’s this afternoon and I miss her. In part because I had a good day and I want to share my good mood with her.

Her grandmother and her father are really the only two people she sees with this lockdown so I hope she appreciates the change of scenery. She’s supposed to bake me a lemon cardamom cake.

After work, I reorganized some cupboards while watching the last season of The Great on Hulu.

I went for a walk with my neighbor.

I helped another nonprofit with their CDBG grant— the same one I wrote for my agency today.

I made myself this platter for a light supper:

And I received emails that my birthday purchases to myself have mostly shipped.

I also got a text from CVS that my prescription is ready which is exciting on many levels.

  1. I thought my prescription didn’t have any refills left. And I was literally staring in the bottle wondering if I had enough to make it to my doctor appointment scheduled for June 2.
  2. CVS sent me a coupon for a free nail polish on my birthday. A sexist notion really— but I like free things. And I should start doing my nails again since I won’t be able to get a manicure for a while.
  3. I have a $25 CVS gift card.

So, for a Monday, it was a mighty fine day.

Birthday Breakfast for the Imaginary

In my free time, I write fiction. My husband says it makes me an easier person with whom to live.

My writing focuses on a Parisian high fashion house inclined to supernatural events. The creative director is Étienne d’Amille and he’s been in my life for decades.

So, he’s my best ever imaginary friend.

He was born during the interwar era in France– March 14, 1959. Every year I try to mark his birthday in some way. When he turned 50, I took a group of my friends (the ones who “knew” him, i.e. read about him) out for dinner and margaritas.

Many of my celebrations are quiet meals at home, where we often discuss what we’d get him for a present or what he might be doing now. 

This year, I made steak au poivre.

For breakfast.

A day late.



I had intended a lovely dinner, perhaps even by candlelight, for this charming imaginary Frenchman whose memories I confuse as legitimately my own. Then I agreed to work for a colleague in the evening and my mom visited taking my daughter away. (She would have been extremely disappointed if we ate the steaks without her.) To further complicate matters, my husband and I used the early afternoon for other activities (or more accurately, one adult activity) that I’m sure Étienne would have also enjoyed.

This particular version of steak au poivre has its own “comedy of errors” moments but let me say, it might have been my best ever. After college, I became a vegetarian. This lasted eight years primarily for two reasons: 1. I don’t approve of modern factory farming and 2. I hate touching meat. Étienne, though, as a Frenchman and a divorcé, likes to cook so I got over my discomfort of dealing with meat “for him.”

Étienne’s Belated Steak Au Poivre

  • 4 small chuck tender steaks, angus beef (I got mine on markdown at Target)
  • black peppercorns
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • half a stick of butter, cut into four equal pieces of on tablespoon each
  • garlic powder (should be shallots but I didn’t have them. I often substitute fresh chives but didn’t have them either)
  • 1/2 cup brandy (I’m a liar. I didn’t have brandy. I had ginger brandy and spices rum, so I mixed them. It worked.)
  •  3/4 cup heavy cream (I’m lying again. I didn’t have cream, so I used half and half)

The process 

(I put photos on Instagram: angelackerman.)

With a heavy-bottomed skillet (mine, of course, is Le Creuset), smash peppercorns. I couldn’t find my grinder, which had my peppercorns in it. I did find a small container of peppercorns and salt that had exploded from the grinder at some point.

Next, pat steaks dry and smash them with a skillet too. Cooking can be great as a form of anger management. I bet Thug Kitchen would agree.

Sprinkle both sides of the steaks with salt and press the peppercorns into the meat. Cook them to desired doneness and place in a warm oven.

Now, the cream sauce.

Take half the butter and cook your shallots or chives or whatever. I added about two teaspoons garlic powder. When it’s appropriately incorporated pour in the alcohol. When that starts to bubble, add the cream and slowly bring it to a boil. Let it slowly thicken, then add remaining butter. When it melts and blends into the sauce and you just can’t take it anymore, smother those steaks and eat!