the story of a birthday, with recipes


On the morning of December 31, Jacob woke up and smiled.  It was his nineteenth birthday and he was looking forward to being home all day long as the center of attention, with lots of family and friends saying Happy Birthday over and over, and generally making merriment in his honor.  As the first of seven children, he always felt his very best in a crowd.


His sweet girlfriend was the first to arrive.  The day was sunny and pretty.


Emily and Jacob spent time together until she had to go to work.


Meanwhile, in the kitchen, I was very busy making meatballs out of 10 pounds of hamburger.


I have opinions about meatballs.  The ones found in the frozen food section of the grocery store are miles away from being as tasty as homemade.  The only ones I have found pre-made that I will pay good money for are a brand that costco sells in the refrigerator section.  They are sold in bags of sauce and they are very good.  But I haven’t been able to find them lately and also they are a bit more expensive than homemade.

I didn’t like making meatballs until I thought to myself,  “I DO like making cookies and they are the same exact concept”.  Big bowl, dump in ingredients, mix, and form into balls on cookie sheets.  Bake at 350.  EASY!

Here is a basic recipe, but the sky is the limit with meatballs.  Simple is best.

4 pounds ground beef
2 eggs
4 slices fresh bread, town into bread crumbs
1/2 finely minced onion
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup tomato juice

Mix together, form into balls, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until done.

At this point you may cool them and freeze for later, or use them in your favorite recipe.

For Jacob’s party I put them in a crock pot, poured sauce over and turned the dial to “warm”.  I prepared buttered noodles and kept them in casserole dishes in the empty oven to store until dinner.

A note about sauce.  I do buy prepared sauce and keep it in the pantry but lately I’ve been cutting the saltiness of it by adding a big (28 oz) can of plain whole tomatoes to the pot.  To me this has a fresher taste and is more “tomatoey” rather than “processed spaghetti sauce”.    A plain, simple, but high quality sauce is nice for simmering meatballs because the meatballs flavor the sauce deliciously.


The house began to fill with teenagers.  Jacob is blessed to have great friends in his life and also a birthday that falls on a great party day—New Year’s Eve—and for the last few years the day has turned into an all night celebration for them (not me.  I hate staying up late.)


With Ethan and a couple other boys on the wrestling team, we try to have lots of fresh fruit and veggies in the fridge at all times.  And it’s good for all of us to eat them.

Caleb’s mom won the “best dip” award (no prize, just the title) by sending along a a couple bags of waffle fries for us to bake and then serve with this dip:

1 tub of sour cream
diced chives (a couple handfuls)
a pack of bacon cooked and diced
a cup of shredded cheddar cheese

Mix together and chill for at least an hour and then top with a little more chives and bacon.  Serve with waffle fries.

amazing…so so good


Our old couch is now down in the basement along with a TV and the game systems.  So this year it became the kid’s favorite hang out place.  I just had to control my curiosity and not go down to see what they were doing constantly.

Just once in a while.  And it’s always interesting.  Who would have expected seeing Ethan with a tower of dog biscuits on his head?





This is the face of someone whose heart was saying all day long, “How can my darling baby boy be 19 years old?”


Rich is always trying to get kids to do sit ups and push ups with him.


TIME TO EAT!  but first a birthday blessing……


directly followed by a little bit of wrestling



not sorry Tessa….you’re beautiful even with your tongue sticking out….





Emily came back as soon as she was done with work.  She couldn’t wait to dive into the meatballs because I had only let her have one of them that morning.


even more wrestling



They were watching a football game together.  (Caleb is a huge football fan).


Eventually it was presents and cake time.


This was Seth about to almost put his dog in the flames.  *sigh* thank goodness Emily was there to intercept.   Blowing out the candles couldn’t happen fast enough, in my opinion.  I think Parker the dog was nervous, too.  He helps me keep things under control.


Moist Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup brewed coffee, room temperature
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add the oil, coffee and milk; beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat 2 minutes longer.

Pour into a greased 9 by 13, or for a layer cake, two greased and floured 9 inch round baking pans.  Bake at 325 for 25-30 minus or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.


1 cup butter, softened
8 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

Spread frosting between layers and over top and sides of completely cooled cake (note: this is plenty of frosting to top two 9 by thirteen cakes kept in the pans, which is what I did for the party).

(I doubled this recipe for two 9 by thirteens)

recipe source:  taste of home baking classics cookbook


Thank you to Emily and Ethan and his girlfriend Tessa for serving out the cake and ice cream.


Jacob had a wonderful birthday and it was fun to see him enjoy himself.  One of my favorite things about him is his ready laugh.


That’s frosting on those pants.

By the next morning, after a night of doing who knows what, the teens were all watching Sesame Street of all things.  We ate breakfast prepared by Emily at about 8:30 and then people began to either 1) leave or 2) crash all over the couches to sleep.

Jacob had a lot of changes in the last year and we look forward to seeing him continue growing and learning throughout this next one, too.  His last year of being a teenager.

Time flies.  And we are having fun.






5 thoughts on “the story of a birthday, with recipes

  1. Speaking from experience (5 daughters in 15 yrs.), you’ll probably never regret being the gathering place of the young people. You can know where they are & what they are doing without interferng too much. We both know they don’t want, or need, us hovering over them nonstop. Yet, usually they know they thrive with adult supervision. Just keep LOTS of FOOD on hand with your huge WELCOME outside. They rather seem to gravitate to where they feel welcomed & comfortable. Everyone needs acceptance, not criticism, & our youth especially, we think, since they’re often unsure of themselves in various areas. Keep feeding them physically, emotionally & spiritually. They’re our future! Hugs!

  2. Such a blessing of a birthday. You have such a warm, hospitable, family. I know God will use it. The older ones will continue to bring home friends, and it will be healing to some.

    Happy Birthday to Jacob! I can’t believe little you has a big 19 year old son 🙂

    Yummy looking food! I am getting over stomach flu, yet I am ready for a meatball now! ( caught it from those little grands over Christmas…do they just spread this stuff or what?)

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