A Birthday for Tasha Tudor
By Emily Zahasky of Life at Blueberry Barn
Originally published April 3, 2017
April has come to Alaska, but it seems to me that she lost her friend Spring along the way. Perhaps April is rather forgetful, like myself, and simply left Spring down in Washington (where in The Brambles of Bainbridge my mother tells me Spring has been for quite some time). Whatever the reason, Spring has still not graced the cold folk of Juneau with her wonderful presence.
It is on days like today, when the rain is pouring sideways when there is still frozen snow on the ground, and when I simply don't want to wear my mittens a day longer that I remember August.
But before I get into the pictures and the remembering...
Let me tell you something silly about myself: Even though I probably don't know you personally (though I wish I did), I have a great fear of letting you down, dear reader. That was the case back in August of 2016 when these lovely photos were taken and I was so excited to write to you about this particular evening and then… busy-ness. I never wrote the story. A week passed by and I told myself I couldn't possibly post this late. That would mean I had let you down in some way! Oh silly me. I'm sure you wouldn't have minded, but I told myself you did and for that I am sorry. Perhaps it was meant to be though, my silliness, for now I get to bring you a glimpse of Spring even though it may not be spring-time out your kitchen window.
So, let me tell you all about the magical evening we had when we celebrated Tasha Tudor's birthday:
It all started in July when I read the book Becky's Birthday for the very first time. I had seen the lovely birthday scene in my own copy of Tasha's A Time to Keep, but that paled in comparison to the whole story of Becky's amazing birthday. I was inspired! We had celebrated our own little Tasha Tudor Day years before under the apple blossoms one sunny day, but I so wanted to float a cake down a creek, just as Tasha had done. Thankfully, I have a husband who encourages my dreams and soon the two of us were planning a whole party for Tasha - for we were sure she would be with us in spirit!
There were many hours of preparation. First, we had to find a creek that was deep enough for a cake to float down but smooth enough that there was no fear of losing the cake! This wasn't that difficult and two possible locations were chosen. My husband, Quinn and I decided we would pick the best one closer to the date of the party (which would be whatever weekend in August looked sunny enough, for if you can predict anything in Juneau it's the rain!).
I had my heart set on a certain creek, for there was a certain spot where a fallen tree - still alive - hung over the rocks, the perfect spot for a picnic I thought. A nice weekend came and Friday we anxiously hiked to the creek to find - oh no! - it was flooded! Quinn tried his best to console me, who knew if we were going to get another nice sunny weekend? We decided to pray and hope that the water would go down by Sunday, the day everyone would be home and free for the party.
Since we didn't know the exact date of the party we had made a menu ahead of time with a shopping list we would use when the time came. The menu was made up of recipes taken directly from my copy of Tasha's cookbook, a dear treasure of mine. We decided on her Vegetable Soup, her yummy Bread Rolls for Special Occasions, and of course her recipe for Becky's Birthday Cake with Boiled White Frosting. (You can find the cake recipe from the Tasha Tudor Cookbook on the Tasha Tudor and Family website.)
When Sunday finally came it was the perfect kind of day, sunny with high clouds and a light breeze to keep away the mosquitoes. Quinn and I had gone back to the creek and were so delighted to see that the water level had gone down! We spent Saturday evening in the last rays of sunset moving big rocks away from the spot that would be our picnic area (and also a few salmon carcasses. Thankfully the salmon run had just started and the creek didn't yet smell of decaying fish!).
Sunday was spent cooking and baking and running around getting everything together, apron strings flying! I have also left off the best part, Mom and Abigail had no idea! Yes, it was a surprise! Dad knew, for he had helped Quinn fashion the raft of foam to float the cake on (and he also came in handy in transporting our picnic to the creek, including Mom and Abby!).
When a fire had been built and the table - two vintage trunks - had been set, it seemed to me that I could stay right there forever. I had never seen anything quite so beautiful…
The half fallen tree made a perfect roof of evergreen over our picnic table, and our corgi, Greta was quite happy that we were outside for such a long time.
Oh yes, and what would a birthday for Tasha be without our very own dolls in attendance? And all of them looking quite fine in their best dresses and clothes. They were quite content to sit at the head of the table, I imagine.
Lanterns hung from the tree while jars of fresh cut flowers from Mom's garden decorated the table. Meringue toadstools - stuck together with yummy chocolate sat on the plates, ready to be gobbled up before dinner.
Here they are, our very fine guests appearing out of the woods to attend the festivities. I'm sure they were all a bit surprised, even I was surprised! I had not imagined that the picnic would turn out so lovely. After everyone was seated Quinn ladled out the soup from the pot over the fire and we enjoyed our wonderful meal among the flowers, the twinkling candle lights, and the sound of the stream around us.
Soon tea was served, from a kettle that had been boiling over the fire, and it was time for the dessert to be revealed! Quinn and I ran back down the trail to our car on the pretense that it needed to be kept cold (or some silly story like that). We then grabbed the cakes (for there was one for the dolls as well!) and the raft and carefully made our way back to the creek, trying to hide from the eyes of those still sitting at the picnic table.
Here is Quinn pushing the cake out into the middle of the stream, candles burning brightly. Imagine how surprised those fishermen were when the two of us told them we were about to float a cake down the stream where they were fishing. My, they were so surprised! But once they saw we were quite serious (and they noticed the 'interesting' outfit I was wearing) they wanted to know all about us!
Looking back I realize how terrified I was that the cake would fall off the raft and fall into the water, to be enjoyed by the salmon of the stream. Haha! But through all my fears the cake made it safely down the creek to come to rest next to our picnic. Mom, Abigail and Ddad were all a mix of joy and wonder as the cake, decorated with flowers and candles, came to sit in the middle of the table.
A resounding cheer of "Happy birthday, Tasha Tudor!" rang from our table and echoed back from the woods as we cut into the delicious cake. (And there was so much cake that I cut two slices and hand-delivered them to the fisherman up the creek, who were very excited and even more curious about who the girl in the red dirndl was.)
Looking at these pictures makes me long for sun filled days, I simply can't wait for Spring to come to our little corner of the world. Tasha was good at enjoying each and every season for the blessings that came with it, so perhaps I shall follow her example and start some seeds for my garden and maybe do a nice cleaning to sweep away the cobwebs and dust of winter until Spring arrives.
Until next time dear reader, I pray the Lord blesses you with Springtime in your heart, even if it's still Winter out your front door.
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..." Ecclesiastes 4:11