Heather's Birthday 2021

October 30, 2021 10:00 am

A busy, busy day for Heather's birthday. School for the girls, of course. And work for me. Last year Heather had been a little disappointed at my treasure hunt. It was all very mental and she prefers to have some physical tasks as well. So this year was a mix of physical and mental challenges.

Once I was home from work (meaning I wrapped up my last meeting and could leave my closet) we let the games begin. Her presents had been locked up by some mischievous minion and only by completing her challenges and assembling clues could she possibly discover the code to unlock the box.

She started with the Strings of Despair! 7 strings criss-crossed the front yard connecting the numbers 1-7 to letters on the other side. Some went through the leaf pile that Corinne made last weekend.

With the mapping of numbers to letters in hand, she next had to cross the Chasm of Chaos! She must cross the bottomless pit via the rickety ladder, while collecting clues along the way. The rung wrapped in blue has broken off and fallen into the abyss and she must cross without it.

Aside: We got some great color on our tree this fall. Just look at it in the background there!

The clues from the Chasm of Chaos connected colors to numbers. Next she needed to use her assembled information to determine how to safely cross the Mines of Mystery!

Using the letter/number pairs from the Strings of Despair she was able to determine the safe path through the minefield and collect the color of the dud mines along the way. Next she needed to decode the colors of the mines into numbers using the information from the Chasm of Chaos. The decoded colors revealed the combination to the lock.

After presents it was time to go to gymnastics. After gymnastics we were going to pick up dinner from First Street Ale House to eat before cake. But Heather came stumbling back into the house in tears less than halfway through class. She had apparently injured her neck while doing a somersault and was in considerable pain. So we postponed our birthday dinner plans until the next night and grabbed McDonald's. After some ibuprofen, food, and rest she was up for cake.

Per Heather's request, Jess made a vanilla cake with chocolate-cream filling, chocolate frosting, and some crumbled Andes mints on top.

Jess' Birthday 2021

September 25, 2021 10:34 am

Monday was Jess' birthday which started with getting the girls off to school and me to work (in my closet). She went to lunch with a friend and the girls had homework and swim class in the afternoon. I dropped the girls off at home after swim class and drove out to Melo's to pick up dinner while Jess got the girls cleaned (and heated up chicken nuggets for Corinne). Potato/bacon pizza for Jess, pepperoni/chicken calzone for me, and cheese pizza for Heather.

After dinner was cake and presents!

So far I haven't had a great track record in picking birthday cakes that Jess loves, but this year we seem to have a winner. I spent the weekend attempting a new cake cobbled together from a couple of other recipes: A salted-caramel cheesecake with blondie crust and salted-caramel topping.

It ended up a little undercooked--the center wasn't fully set, but it was still delicious.

And presents!

Kyle's Birthday 2021

June 13, 2021 10:52 am

My birthday this year was also the penultimate day of school for the girls and a remote-learning day. I worked from my closet for the morning while the girls got their schoolwork done and took the afternoon off. After lunch we went for a short walk at Sycamore Grove mainly as an excuse to get out of the house. The weather was probably the coolest I've had for a birthday in over a decade with a high of about 65F.

Our Sycamore Grove "hikes" rarely make it further than the hollowed out tree about a half-mile along the trail. But it makes a good stopping point and fun pictures:

After our walk in the park it was time for the girls' art class. Jess dropped them off and I sat on the couch and read a book while the house was quiet.

Once the girls were home from art class I opened presents!

Japanese, wooden, animal knick-knacks
All 3 "Castle Panic" expansions! Ahhhhhh!

With presents opened it was time to figure out dinner. I drove out to the Cheesecake Factory to pick up food--the spicy chicken chipotle pasta is yummy.

And, of course, after dinner was cake!

Bonus picture of Heather with her eyes crossed:


After work on Friday we went to Boomers! and played miniature golf to celebrate my birthday and the end of school.

Yesterday, Saturday, we went over to some friends' house and played a board game. With vaccinations going into effect and infection rates dropping life is starting to go back to normal.

Corinne and I got 2 pandemic birthdays, but it looks like Heather and Jess will only have one. Alameda County moved to the yellow tier this week and California is still planning to lift most remaining state-imposed restrictions this week on the 15th (there will still be some restrictions on mass gatherings). Messaging has been unclear and I'm not sure if Alameda County will retain any restrictions beyond the state's or not.

Corinne's 6th Birthday

March 20, 2021 11:02 am

Corinne celebrated her second pandemic birthday this week.

She had a treasure hunt at lunch time to find her presents.

I had to go on site to work for the afternoon. While I was gone Jess helped Corinne construct that Lego set. When I got home Corinne and I played with it all the way until dinner time.

Corinne's requested dinner, the best dinner she could ever imagine, was spaghetti with alfredo sauce and mashed potatoes. We offered to include toast (one of her most loved foods), but she turned it down because when she has two things on her plate that she really loves (toast and spaghetti) she'll only eat one of them and then be full without getting to enjoy the other. We suggested having less of each to be able to enjoy both, but she turned that down too; too risky.

After dinner was cake. Corinne was very excited about the nightlight ladybug thing she received, so it needed to pose with her.

Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a vanilla (but pink colored) mousse filling. Decorated with Hershey kisses around the edge, one of her favorite candies.

On Friday we took the afternoon off for a trip to the zoo. We were all pretty wiped out though. Not sure if it was from the time change or a year of incredibly sedentary lifestyle or both, but we only covered about 1/3 of the zoo before coming home. Corinne's favorite part was riding the gondola to the top where the bears, bison, wolves, and eagles are. Those animals weren't her favorite, the gondola ride itself was her favorite.

Heather's Birthday 2020

November 10, 2020 7:41 pm

With Heather's birthday we've now celebrated the entire family's birthdays for 2020 in quarantine.

Her birthday was a work & school day. Much of the day was spent trying to get Heather to complete her school work so we could move on to fun activities. We eventually got on with things and the requisite treasure hunt was a big hit. This year's hunt involved playing a custom-coded guessing game on the computer, decoding a message encrypted using a substitution cipher, some math word problems, and completing some electronic circuitry.

Birthday dinner was McDonald's cheeseburgers (because what could be better than that?). Then she opened presents before having cake. Corinne thought up and picked out a Toothless stuffed animal (the dragon from "How to Train your Dragon") to give her and Heather is enamored of it. She puts one of her old nightgowns on it at night to keep it warm and it travels with her throughout the house during the day.

This year's cake was a white cake with vanilla-cream filling, chocolate frosting, and decorated with Andes mints. Unfortunately, like last year, she wasn't particularly thrilled with it. So she'll have to pick another new cake next year.

While we were eating cake she seemed a bit down. After some probing she admitted to having been a bit let down by her gifts. She liked them all, but was hoping for some Je-ne-sais-quoi delight that didn't materialize. And I know the feeling. I've had that experience too. It's not that there's some particular thing that you're hoping for (otherwise you could say so and increase your chances). You're just hoping for some unexpected surprise and it doesn't always happen (nor is it always specifically hoped for either). Some language probably has a word for it.

We'll see if we can land a hit at Christmas. I spent some time looking for ideas and think I found something that will fit the bill.