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Lauren never got to go to the beach. Hoping that I can bring Niko back again next year.

In Florida, twenty weeks pregnant with Niko.

In Florida, twenty weeks pregnant with Niko.

This year, my best friend Heather and I hosted our 9th Birthday Fiesta o’ Fun. Our first BFoF was held in 2003, and it was nothing like the all-out smorgasbords we do now. We started simply by wanting to make a few things we found in Heather’s various cookbooks. We settled on about a half-dozen dishes and found that they fit into one of two categories: Appetizer or Dessert. And because it was just us, we went ahead and did them all anyway.

The next year, it was Seafood & Chocolate. Then Fondue. Then Tarts. Yes, just tarts. All tarts. That one got a little out of control in the execution. It was the first year we actually invited guests, and by the time they all arrived, we only had one tart ready. It was chaos.

After that, we decided to pick a single ingredient, Iron Chef style, and make all the dishes in accordance with that ingredient. The first time, we chose Strawberry. A success! Since then, we’ve done Sweet Potato, Mint, and Apple. This year, we chose Zucchini.

The Birthday Fiesta o’ Fun is a two-day process, but the first day generally just involves planning, shopping, and prep work. The next day, we cook and bake. All day long. We stop briefly to greet guests and serve appetizers, but then it’s back to getting the main course ready to go. We don’t stop until the main meal is served, and then we get to sit down with our guests and enjoy what we’ve created.

It’s possibly my favorite day of the year.

In the past, we’ve done gift exchanges, but that was mostly when we did the BFoF on our actual birthdays. Since I left Florida in 2008, we’ve held the BFoF in July, which is when I’m in the state for family gatherings and such. Also, our birthdays fall just before school starts in Florida, which meant it was always a crazy week for Heather anyway, seeing as how she has two girls to get ready for school. And, back when she was teaching, she had herself to get ready too. So July has just been more convenient.

But, if we were following true birthday tradition, then this weekend would be the big BFoF celebration. I turn 32 today. Heather’s birthday is tomorrow. I figured today was a good day to share all the wonderful dishes we made for this year’s BFoF. It was an incredibly successful dinner, possibly our best BFoF to date.

Party Favor: Mini Zucchini Loaves

Party Favor: Mini Zucchini Loaves

Appetizer: Zucchini Disks with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Appetizer: Zucchini Disks with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

Appetizer: Oven-Fried Zucchini with Ranch Dip

Appetizer: Oven-Fried Zucchini with Ranch Dip

Soup: Creamy Zucchini & Potato Soup

Soup: Creamy Zucchini & Potato Soup

Main Course: Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Marinara

Main Course: Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini with Homemade Marinara

Salad: Zucchini, Corn, & Tomato Salad

Salad: Zucchini, Corn, & Tomato Salad

Side Dish: Zucchini Barley Risotto

Side Dish: Zucchini Barley Risotto

Desserts: Zucchini Cake and Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

Desserts: Zucchini Cake and Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

This is the last of the holiday/2013 posts. Time to stop lingering in the dawn of a new year; time to get back to posting about food.

Not all about food. But you get my meaning.

Anyway, resolutions. I don’t have so many of them this year. I’m hoping I can set them up as guidelines, with actual attainable goals, as necessary.

Resolution the first: write every day. This can include the blog – the blog goal is to write five posts per week, which is what I was doing through November and December. I’d like at least two of those weekly posts to be non-food related. I’m not sure what I’m going to write about on those days, so they might be a bit random until I do figure it out. I will hazard a guess that it will have something to do with babyloss and grief. I’d also like to work on novel-writing every day, but especially on days I’m not blogging. Saturday, in particular, will be a novel-writing day. Don’t expect any blogs on Saturdays. I’m going to make a point of leaving the house on Saturday to go somewhere and write.

Resolution the second: read. Last year, I used Goodreads to set a goal to read 50 books; I hit that goal in October. I’m still doing the 50-book goal, mainly because it’s a good, rounded number. Sometimes I didn’t read a book for two weeks, then I’d read two in a week. Sometimes three. It fluctuates. I’m also including a sub-goal: once a month, read a classic American novel. I focused almost entirely on British/European literature in my high school and college years, and I really don’t know a lot about classic American literature. I’d like to change that.

Resolution the third: get healthy for pregnancy. Yeah, losing weight would be great, but really, the focus is on having a healthy pregnancy. That means eating sensibly and moving around more. I’m not giving up any foods, because I don’t like the idea of depriving myself of a food I know I’ll miss (like meats or grains or dairy or whatever), so it’s really a simple matter of eating as well as I can and scaling back on portions, sugar, and fat. I can do that. It also means developing a work-out that I will not get bored of in a week and that I can do while pregnant. I hate exercise, and I really hate exercising just for the sake of exercising. It’s boring, and it does not make me feel good. This one’s going to be a challenge.

Resolution the fourth: continue to improve my cooking skills. Last year, I learned a lot about preparing and enjoying good food, and I want to keep doing that. There are definitely a couple of specific skills I want to attempt – such as making a soufflé, getting a hold of beef cheeks and making barbacoa, trying out more Chinese dishes since we can’t find a decent restaurant to satisfy such cravings, and working on pastry skills. Stuff like that. Also, in regards to Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, I want to do some catching up to the French Friday group and make an additional recipe from the book every week. It’s such a fun book, and I’ve learned so much from it. I just want to keep going.

Resolution the fifth: attempt to get pregnant. I’m pretty sure this isn’t so much a resolution as it is an aspiration. It’s just something we want. But I’m including it with my resolutions, because it is something we need to work toward. There are a couple of things we need to do (like paint the hot pink bedroom) to get ready for a baby. This is nothing I haven’t talked about already, so I’m being brief about this. I want 2013 to be the year I have a healthy pregnancy that ends with us bringing home a healthy baby.

And that’s it. A simple list, I hope, with some attainable goals. Life, I have come to understand in this past year, is a day-to-day thing. Step by step, day by day, we keep moving forward. Even when we have to stop and gather our strength and think about the reasons to keep on going. The important thing is to try, to live as best we can. To have our bad days and accept them and try again the next day.

That’s what I hope to do. To keep going.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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