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Monday, May 23, 2016

A Green Chinese Birthday Celebration

When I asked our third son what theme he'd like for his eleventh birthday, he said he didn't know.  After many more inquiries, he finally said his favorite color is green, and he'd like for me to make my chicken lo-mein for his birthday dinner.  Oh, and he'd like to celebrate on Sunday since his actual birthday is on a school day this year.  And no party, just family here.  That's all I had to go on.  This is the same child with whom I gained the most weight, and my body never again returned to a size 4.  The same child who kept turning his body into a transverse position in utero and kept me worrying up until the end whether or not I'd be able to have him naturally.  The same child who kept me in labor for two whole days, and I thought he was never coming out.  My only child born with my orange hair and super fair skin and freckles.  The only one of our children born with his dad's stocky body and an intense love affair with food from the very beginning.  He has always been the one to do things a little differently, quite a bit reluctantly, and with a contrary nature.  So I wasn't suprised by his birthday wish list or requests.  The tricky part was trying to come up with an entire party theme based on the color green and Chinese food.  But here's what I came up with.

Hubby and I started out at Party City and picked up green and white paper products and these cute treat boxes that resemble Chinese takeout.

Then we went around those candy carousels that Party City has and picked out most of the green and white candy---enough for our youngest six children who were here (including a grown one.)

Then we filled each green box with the exact same amount of candy and put one at each child's spot at the table.  The rock candy sticking out the sides was supposed to resemble chop sticks.  

We tossed some green and white glow sticks all over the table.  Not really sure that they fit the Chinese theme, but they were the colors we were looking for, and what kid doesn't like glow sticks?

And I put out a plate of crispy Chinese noodles for a snack that we picked up from the supermarket.  I refilled this at least three times.

I know this is a little repetitive of  my fruit kabobs at Easter, but the green grapes and kiwi fit with our theme, and instead of marshmallow peeps on the skewers, I placed fortunes.

Because you can never have too many good fortunes.


Of course, we had to have a bowl of fortune cookies too.  Actually, there were broken fortune cookies scattered all over the table, and whole ones ended up on the cake too.

Speaking of the know I admit my failures and flops on here.  The original birthday cake was a HUGE disaster.  Our son asked for a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting.  Usually our daughter does the cake baking in this house, but she was tired due to a field trip to an amusement park the day before, so I baked the cake.  The double layer triple chocolate super-moist cake that I made from a box that said it even had pudding in the mix came out of the oven perfectly.  But I had a problem with the homemade peanut butter frosting.  I replaced the butter in my favorite butter creme recipe with natural peanut butter.  First it seemed too thick, so I added more milk.  Then it seemed too runny, so I added more powdered sugar.  I ended up adding more peanut butter at the last minute because I didn't think it tasted "peanutty" enough.  By the time the cake cooled, the frosting was very, very thick and stiff.  When I tried to frost the cake, the top layer kept leaning off to one side, and the frosting was almost impossible to spread.  The cake split once, twice, three, then four times.  And it was all over.  I told everybody to come help themselves to whopping large pieces of cake.  Then I made everybody eat it for breakfast the next morning because I needed the empty cake plate. 

So on the way home from Church, we stopped at Weis, and the Birthday Boy picked out a Pellman's triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate peanut butter candies.  But it was frozen, and I wasn't sure it would be thawed in time to eat.  Fortunately, we ate later than I had planned and all was well.  You can see from the top photo that we added some green confetti sprinkles and fortune cookies to the top of the cake to keep with our green Chinese theme.

We also found big balloons with his name on them at Party City.  Our daughter had the great idea of blowing them up with glow sticks inside.  The problem was the glow sticks tended to jut out the sides and pop the balloons easily.  We also should have had them inflated with helium because we could not get them to stay upright on his chair.

On the front porch chalkboard, our daughter wrote Happy Birthday in Chinese with attempts at drawing some Asian flowers.  She decorated with green chalk; although, you can't tell from the photo.  I know I'm freaky about trying to keep our family members' names private, which is why everywhere his name appears, I've blotted it out.  Maybe some of you parents can understand.  We haven't taken any Chinese here, so we looked this up on the Internet and hope it's correct. 

I couldn't find any green Chinese birthday banners, so this one had to do from the Dollar Tree. 

This old farmhouse definitely does not have enough counter space, so I made use of the coal stove and turned it into a mini bar to make our first vodka tonics of the season for the big people.

Our Birthday Boy insisted on helping decorate, so he designed his own chalk dragon on our indoor chalkboard.

Finally it was time for dinner.  Our adult son and his fiancee arrived with homemade egg rolls, something I've never made, and I was thoroughly impressed.  Everyone loved them so I'll have to get the recipe to share.

At our son's request, my husband and I cooked up some chicken lo-mein.  Lots and lots of lo-mein.  We'll be eating it for days.  This is one of the few Asian dishes I create, but it's one most of us love (I have a few non-lovers in the family who were less than thrilled about dinner yesterday.)

Chicken Lo-Mein
Marinate a pound of thinly sliced boneless chicken breasts in 1 Tablespoon corn starch, salt, 1 Tablespoon water, 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, and powdered ginger.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes-several hours.  Cook a pound of vermicelli and drain.  Add the cooked vermicelli to heated oil in a skillet, and sprinkle in 1 Tablespoon soy sauce (enough to turn noodles slightly brown,) and salt to taste.  Stir-fry until heated through, then remove to a pot or plate to keep warm.  I mix in a tiny bit of oil to prevent it from sticking.  Stir-fry the marinated chicken in the same oil in skillet.  Add a little more soy sauce, salt, and ginger if you like.  Once cooked through, remove and keep warm.  Add 1/2 cup each of thinly sliced carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and mushrooms.  Stir-fry until tender crisp. Add 1-2 cups chicken broth, and bring to a boil.  Add the cooked chicken and 2 shredded scallions or chopped onions.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in mixture of 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, and 2 Tablespoons water.  Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.  Spoon over vermicelli, and serve immediately.  Of course, feel free to use any vegetables you like.  I also don't measure soy sauce or ginger; I just sprinkle it in as I go along until it tastes the way we like it.  We doubled this recipe and cooked it in a wok since it was too much for any of our skillets.

After dinner and cake, it was time to open a few gifts.  The Lego Creator set was put together in less than an hour.

But the pocket knife from his older brother is going to get hours and hours of use, I can tell.

He was already working on a walking stick or spear or something I maybe don't want to know about last night as it was turning dark.  Perhaps whittling wood will replace Lego building as his new hobby now that he's become a middle-schooler.  Regardless, I'm sure he'll continue to surprise us with his uniqueness as he enters this next stage of his life.

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