cutting trees, cutting grass
Thank you to many who prayed for us and other residents of Eastern North Carolina last weekend. Irene did indeed make landfall around the southern outer banks as a Category 1 hurricane, bringing an entire day of relentless wind and rain. We lost several limbs in our yard, as well our electricity for 3 days, but it was thankfully not all that big a deal for us.
We are, after all, survivors of the Central Florida summer of 2004.
The day after the hurricane, we spent the morning cutting limbs and moving debris in our backyard. It helped a lot that Abby’s parents were staying with us, so the yard work went exponentially faster. I offered to help a neighbor chainsaw a fallen tree in her front yard, and she offered to save most of the important contents of our freezer with her generator. We have lots of good neighbors here in Trent Woods.
In the afternoon, we drove down to Morehead City to join a crew of volunteers from our church. Ironically, the damage seemed to be worse around Trent Woods and New Bern than down towards the coast. But there was one family out in the low-lying town of Otway with a big mulberry tree that had mostly fallen over. Between that and all the trees and limbs in our own and our neighbors’ backyards, I’ve had plenty of opportunties to rev up my chainsaw, and still more opportunities await. The only thing that would make the Echo CS-400 more fun to use is if it glowed blue in the presence of orcs. (Actually, I’m not entirely sure it doesn’t—it’s been hard to verify since the end of the Third Age.)
With our power restored, we decided to reschedule Valor’s big 2nd birthday party for this past Saturday. I’m not sure he even knew the difference; we kept saying “happy birthday” to him all week so he probably thinks every day is his birthday.
In the weeks leading up to Valor’s birthday, when we asked him what he wanted, he usually said, “Chocolate birthday cake. With candles.” And this, my friends, is how the House of Gjertsen deals with such low expectations:
Here are the technical details if you want to know: We used two Chocolate Midnight loaf-pan cakes, which were dense and moist, from the book Sweet Times (recipe here). I jigsawed a wooden platform for the cake to sit on from a 4″ wide piece of trim, like this:
The cake for the tractor and trailer were intended to overhang the base by about 0.25″ in order to obscure the base as well as the 1.25” legs I made from a craft product called Woodsies, smaller than any trim I could find in a hardware store. The legs would be mostly obscured by the wheels, but I wanted them to be as hidden as possible. Then I glued some parchment paper to the top of the platform as Abby insisted the cake not come into direct contact with the wood base. One loaf cake made the bottom layer of the tractor, another half was for the cab, and the last half for the wagon. Abby used Wilton’s kelly green coloring (lots of it) and buttercup yellow. She also used a can of dark chocolate fudge ready-made frosting for the dark parts. Oreo Funstix made excellent cab poles and exhaust pipe. Smarties became headlights and taillights. For the tires I dipped Krispy Kreme Krispy Juniors and Dunkin Donuts french crullers in semi-sweet chocolate chips thinned with Crisco, and Abby stuck them onto the bottom cake layer with toothpicks. Butterscotch haystacks went in the wagon!
Yes, the theme of the party was tractors, which has obviously been Valor’s biggest obsession over the past year, along with excavators and backhoes and loaders and riding lawnmowers. He’s ridden on the heavy equipment of our two neighbors, and loves to push toy carts around the yard and tell us that he’s “cutting the wheat field.” So Abby made sure his party was decorated with all his tractor toys and a banner of tractor wheels made from black and yellow paper plates:
For the party, our neighbor Mr. Boyd, whose big red tractor plays a big role in Valor’s obsession, gave him a little hayride around the neighborhood, and then we went inside and decorated wooden tractor crafts.
The favors were personalized child-sized bandanas and little tractor wagons stuffed with a farm animal, some butterscotch haystacks, and a matchbox tractor. Abby really gets her craft geek on for occasions like these.
After the party (and Valor’s afternoon nap), we took Valor to the John Deere dealership to climb on the big equipment. In between the big tractors Valor discovered what we had planted there: a battery-powered toddler tractor which caused him to proclaim “itty-bitty one!” in glee. After fiddling with the FM radio tuner, he coaxed the battery-powered tractor forward in little spurts.
Valor’s rescheduled birthday party weekend coincided with a visit from three of our friends from Orlando: Julia, Carissa, and Julianne. We were flattered that they drove such a long way to spend time with us, and really enjoyed spending time with them all. To all our other Orlando peeps: 10 hours, 20 minutes is the time to beat by car.