Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Space Monkey's Halloween Adventure

This is technically Ezra’s second Halloween.  Since he was only three weeks old last Halloween, we sat his first year out.  Busy with being brand new parents, we did not have time to think about costumes, parties, pumpkins, and treats (let alone tricks!).  Ezra will probably find it disappointing that we deprived him of an entire year of Halloween festivities.  As we discovered this year, he loves everything about the holiday: the scary decorations, the parties, visiting a pumpkin patch, selecting his own gourd, and especially wearing his costume which garnered him even more attention than usual. 

Ezra dressed as

the famed Soviet [monkey] astronaut, Dryoma.  Dryoma, with his (or possibly her – I could find no clarification) pal Yerosha, traveled to space in 1987 as part of the Bion space program (Бион).  Aboard the Bion 8 biosatellite, the two rhesus monkeys spent 2 weeks in space

where Dryoma defended his ship from hostile aliens,

and befriended other alien species with Tang and crackers.

Once they safely returned to the USSR, Yerosha, a life long military monkey, returned to his work as an astronaut.  Dryoma embraced his new found celebrity, and enjoyed a fast, life of parties, booze and women.
Eventually he was ready for something different so he retired to Cuba.  The Soviet Union presented Dryoma as a gift to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and the two primates quickly became best friends.

Fidel and Dryoma became inseparable.  They especially enjoyed weekend camping expeditions in their VW bus.
Together they grew old, and happily met each others' needs.  Dryoma would light Fidel’s cigars,
and Fidel would lovingly breast feed his monkey to sleep every night keeping his beloved friend healthy and happy.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ezra's First Birthday Party: The Party

Ezra’s birthday party took weeks of preparation.  I am bringing up this point, not as a complaint or as an act of self-congratulations, but to acknowledge the fact that Amanda and I are crazy – like Martha Stewart crazy.  This is how our conversations sounded the entire month leading up to Ezra’s birthday: “Sorry, I don’t have time to meet you for coffee.  I need to rush home and decoupage the paper mache birds I constructed last night as party decorations so that I can start the quilt I’m sewing as a birthday gift.  Did you know how easy it is to make your own vanilla extract?  I hope it is ready in time to use in the cinnamon ice cream I’m planning to serve with the birthday cake.”

Ezra helping to shred paper for the paper mache birds (I wasn't exaggerating, and Ezra is not immune to our craziness).

The reason I describe our mania as crazy rather than ambitious, extravagant, or even eccentric is that the entire time we were debating the party’s color scheme we were also fully acknowledging that Ezra would not remember anything about his first birthday.   So, why did it matter?  Our motive for all the work was never to give Ezra magazine quality perfection.  The party was an excuse to cook, create fun crafts, and entertain - all activities we have had less time to do as new parents.

And, who knows maybe Ezra will remember his first birthday party.  Thinking about my own first memories has made me realize this is probably not likely.  In fact, he will most likely not remember anything from his first year, second year, and little if anything from his third year of life.  Yet, I also realize that because of technology, Ezra’s relationship with his own history will be different than my own.  Digital cameras, video recorders, and the Internet have all changed the way memories are “preserved” as well as the quantity of moments that are captured. Hundreds of photos are now easily and inexpensively taken at a child’s first birthday party with a digital camera.  My first birthday, shot on film, is captured with handful of photographs.  My eyes are probably closed in all of them.

As an adult, Ezra will be able to look back at the thousands of photographs taken this year alone, listen to Amanda and I share our stories about his early life, and even read this blog to piece together his early biography.  As a parent, I realize how much control I have in shaping the “memories” Ezra will have of this part of his life.  The photographs we share and the stories we tell will help determine his perception of his first years.  We decide for example whether to photograph Ezra when he is happily playing or when he is upset.  We can choose to write only about his embarrassments or his triumphs.  We hope the version of Ezra’s life we are documenting is closer to nonfiction than fiction –not too biased or edited, and perhaps one day he will come across something that triggers a real memory. Regardless of whether or not that memory is of his first birthday party, we hope his party was a special day that will be remembered fondly by all of the party’s guests, Amanda and me.
 The autumn portion of the decorations.
Garry inviting guests to share their first memories.

 Mingling before dinner.

First birthday wish.

 Unwrapping gifts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ezra's First Birthday Party: The Menu (with recipes!)

A first birthday party is a major event!  Well, at least it is for new parents . . . or, at least for new parents who like to plan parties.   Admitting that Ezra's first birthday was probably a bigger deal for us and our immediate family than anyone else - especially Ezra - we decided on a smallish dinner party as an appropriate way to celebrate.  When planning the menu, we used the same theme as the invitations and decorations, the four seasons (spring, winter, fall & summer - not Frankie Valli's band), as inspiration.  We found and created several delicious recipes for the occasion.

For spring we served an asparagus, leek and green pea risotto alla primavera cooked with a white wine and hours of stirring (thanks, Jessie).

We decided crisp, raw vegetables seemed the most like summer so we served our "house" salad.  After repeatedly serving this combination of greens, radishes, sunflower seeds, grape tomatoes, sprouts (grown in our pantry), and carrots with a roasted tomato vinaigrette, we have declared it our signature green salad.

Originally, we planned to serve a different pizza for each season, varying the toppings according to the time of year.  Autumn is the only pizza that survived.  On a homemade crust, we spread roasted butternut squash topped with mozzarella, Parmesan and fontina cheeses, caramelized onions, toasted pecans and a sage butter sauce.

For winter, we wanted something that seemed like warm, comfort food.  We settled on a simple cheese lasagna with homemade noodles and a red wine sauce.

Since Ezra's first year of eating could mostly be summed as "milk, milk, milk," the most appropriate choice seemed a tres leches (three milk) cake.  We paired this delicious cake with homemade cinnamon ice cream (neither of which, our guests will be happy to know, used breast milk).

After tasting cake for the first time, Ezra agreed that birthdays are a big deal and can't wait to turn two!