birthday parties & spiced maple roasted bacon

When I was a kid, I only remember being a guest at a handful of birthday parties. And, though my memories have faded, I only recall a few parties for my own birthdays. There was that one when I was in kindergarten or first grade – but I think I only remember the snapshot moment when a photo was taken, with me and my other 6 year old friends dressed in our 70s-era polyester. I can recall a birthday party at Burger King, either for me or my brother. Parties at the BK were in high demand. I mean, where else can you be crowned royalty for an hour?

Parties just were not something we did routinely. Money – or rather, the lack thereof – probably had a lot to do with the scarcity of parties, but it also just wasn’t the Thing To Do as it is now. This weekend it seemed the party circuit jumped into full swing here. Each of my children had a party to attend over the course of the two days, which means they both came home completely exhausted, crashing from their sugar-high.

The trend here is to have birthday parties at one of the gymnastics and sports centers in town. You know the kind of place – they have big gymnastics mats and equipment in one room, a rockwall in the back, a three-story jungle gym in one corner, a bouncy house room, and a series of rooms along the sides for the two dozen or so parties held each weekend day. Our center has even added a pool for pool parties and swim lessons.

I must confess, I don’t like going to these birthday parties. I try to send my husband whenever possible. While the children have a fantastic time with their school friends, the parents often stand around awkwardly, smiling politely at each other. The moms who know each other huddle in a corner, talking about people none of the rest of us know. Occasionally a dad will be there, but the dads stick with each other and don’t branch out too much. We hover around our children as they play in the jungle gym, holding their stray socks and hair bands, listening out for cries of pain from a fall or an accidental elbow to the nose.

The whole experience would be a lot better if the punch were spiked. Just a thought.

So, Saturday I sent my husband and Oliver to a 4-year old’s birthday party while I stayed home with Madeline. We only had an hour and a half to spend without the boys, so what did we do? We cooked. Well, we made bacon.

Pretty darn good bacon, I might add.


Yield: 4 servings

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Spiced Maple Roasted Bacon

If you like a bit of heat, use 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. If you want to tone it a little, decrease the cayenne to 1/8 teaspoon.

Ingredients:

8 slices center cut bacon
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place oven rack in center.

Lay the strips of bacon on a cooking rack placed inside a sheet pan. Roast for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix together in a small bowl the maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and ground cinnamon.

When the bacon has completed cooking, baste the slices with the maple syrup mixture. Roast for another 4 minutes.

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48 Responses to “celebrating life: homemade ricotta cheese”

  1. Winnie — June 15, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

    I am crying. And just so glad you are alright.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:31 pm

      Thank you so much, Winnie. I miss you.

  2. Ali | Gimme Some Oven — June 15, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    Oh my GOODNESS. I had not heard about this, and have just been catching up on your Facebook posts and now this. I absolutely can’t imagine. What an incredible miracle that you two made it out ok.

    Wishing you lots of rest this weekend, and sweet moments to savor all the more with those you love.

    I am so, so glad that you are ok.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

      Thank you so much, Ali. It put life in perspective in a very sudden way, that’s for sure.

  3. WOW!! I’m SO glad you were okay, that must have been terribly frightening. What a miraculous ending!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

      It was so bizarre and scary and surreal. And thanks — I’m feeling very lucky today.

  4. Anna @ Garnish with Lemon — June 15, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

    What a frightening experience! And such a good reminder to count our blessings every single day. I’m so glad that everyone is home safe and sound.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      So very true, Anna. I’m feeling so blessed today.

  5. Macaroni Mama — June 15, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. Wonderfully written. I could see the flashes of lightning and the after flashes from your eyes.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Mom. I love you.

  6. megan @ whatmegansmaking — June 15, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

    oh my gosh, what an amazing and terrible story. So so glad you are OK! I can’t even imagine.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      Thanks, Megan. It was definitely amazing and terrible, both at the same time.

  7. Joan@Chocolate and More — June 15, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

    I have goosebumps up and down my arms, I’m so glad you’re alright. God was watching over you, that’s for sure.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

      Thank you, Joan.

  8. Liz @ The Lemon Bowl — June 15, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

    Oh my God I can’t even believe this!!! Thank God you are ok. I love that you made ricotta. It is amazing how comforting and soothing food and cooking can be in times of near-tragedy.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

      You’re so right, Liz. It really helped calm my nerves last night.

  9. Carol Sacks — June 15, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    What a harrowing experience! I’m so glad you’re safe and back with your family. Take care.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Thank you, Carol. I’m so glad it all turned out fine, except for the car.

  10. Michael Dietsch — June 15, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    I have no words. Except that I’m very glad you’re okay.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Thanks. I’m still trying to process it myself.

  11. Cassie — June 15, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

    I am so happy to hear you are OK. What a frightening experience!

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

      Thank you, Cassie.

  12. Praise God from whom all blessings flow. You surely had angels surrounding & protecting you my friend. Hugs to you.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

      Thank you so much, Robin.

  13. What a horrific event, so sorry to hear that you went through that, Merry! What a blessing that you and Karen walked away from it. So glad to hear you’re OK.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

      Thank you, Georgia.

  14. Oh Merry-Jennifer,

    That is so scary. I cannot even imagine hurtling down the road at 70 miles per hour and having that happen. I am so glad you’re okay!

    P.S. You are the third person I know who has experienced a lightning strike in very close proximity. You, my brother-in-law (struck while he was getting something from the trunk- thankfully not seriously), and my husband (ball lightning behind his head in our very own living room.) Eek.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:26 pm

      I have another friend whose mother this happened to. Crazy, right? And I know you completely know what I went through after your own near-death experience recently.

  15. jwlucasnc — June 15, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

    Good lord, how terrifying. So glad you both survived this ordeal without injury.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

      Thank you. Me too!

  16. Paula — June 15, 2013 @ 6:53 pm

    I was amazed and relieved yesterday when I saw your Instagram and your tweet about this, that you were alright. Reading about this event is chilling and I can only imagine what you and Karen experienced.

    God obviously has a lot more plans for both of you right here 🙂 Take good care.

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — June 15th, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

      Thank you, Paula. I think you’re right – there is something more I’m meant to do here.

  17. Wendy Read — June 15, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

    Thank God you are alright. So very scary for you both! Hope you are doing so more healing things this weekend.

  18. DessertForTwo — June 15, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

    MJ! My gosh! I read this with my jaw on the floor. I’m so glad you’re okay! Wow! Praise the Lord!

  19. Kathy — June 15, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

    I just read this aloud to my husband, we are just in awe. So very, very thankful that you were able to walk away from this. xoxo

  20. Caroline — June 15, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

    What a story. I’m so glad you were okay! I can’t imagine how terrifying that must be.

  21. Denise @ Creative Kitchen — June 16, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    Oh my!! Wow!!!! What a story to start up with in my reader. I’m so glad you’re okay!! Life is a blessing, and reminders like this sure put it into perspective. As a fellow Floridian, I read your story outloud to my hubby and teen….we are just floored! Crazy….I’ve heard lightening stories before but never in a car.

    One time headed back from Tampa along a stretch of the turnpike there were lightening bolts all around us like that. It was a stretch with all those tall electrical towers lining the road. I guess I should have been relieved that those would keep the lightening from us, but it was so close and all around us that it was very scary!

    I’ll be praying that you feel God’s peace during this time of post trauma, reflection and processing. HUGS!! Denise

    PS….to be a little funny (maybe you’ll develop a super power now! which one would you want. 😉

  22. Kim Foster — June 16, 2013 @ 11:11 am

    Holy crap, MJ! This is incredble.

    I’m so happy you are okay. It could’ve been, well, I don’t even want to think about it. I’m glad it was nothing more than a scary, harrowing experience.

    But now that you’re okay, I have to say it, this is going to be a great cocktail party story, for the rest of your life!!!!

    Eat the ricotta, hug your kids. So happy you are okay, honey.

    xoxo

  23. I cannot imagine how you must have felt after that, I hope that you and you friend feel better now. That must have been terrifying.
    Your cheese looks lovely however and the pictures are beautiful

  24. MJ – SO SO SO scary! I saw your tweets after the fact and wondered whether you would write about it. It must have helped to write it out. So glad you are ok. Many many hugs. XOX just because.

  25. Kathryn — June 17, 2013 @ 4:47 am

    So, so, so scary.

  26. Di — June 17, 2013 @ 10:59 am

    The ricotta distraction seemed to be the right perscription for you. Your written recollections provide your reader with an illuminating (no pun intended) account of your ordeal that is real and immediate and frightening. This terrifying episode in your and your colleague’s life was delivered here eloquently and honestly. I am happy you survived this brush with death and chose to share it. I hope the trauma is physically and emotionally minimal, Merry Jennifer. I am also looking forward to trying your ricotta recipe!

  27. Miranda — June 17, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

    omg – this beautifully crafted – terrifying tale is so well told i could barely read it at a first pass – with my hair standing on end the whole way … the second time i read it i wanted to cry – there’s something so heartfelt about it – so sweet about the simple pleasures of life healing the traumatic – i don’t even like ricotta cheese but i’m going to make some to celebrate you ✿♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪✿

  28. Denise — June 17, 2013 @ 4:41 pm

    OMG this is so scary. I was reading your FB post to Lenny, and the first thing he said was that shouldn’t have happened in a car. Completely crazy … So happy you are okay!!!!!

  29. I read your tweets the other day, and saw your updates on Facebook. Still, as I read this post, I have chills. I cannot tell you how glad I am that you are OK… I will give you an extra big hug at BSP in a few weeks!!

    And, I just adore homemade ricotta. I am thinking that I need to make a batch ASAP.

  30. Nutmeg Nanny — June 26, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

    Oh wow, I am so glad you are okay, what an incredibly frightening story!

  31. Jan Beaumont — June 28, 2013 @ 8:24 am

    How well you described your experience. I was mesmerized and as I read I felt as if I was the one in the car. What a truly awful and frightening thing to happen. And thank goodness for the presence of mind Karen showed. I am so glad your were safe in the end. And to think I read this because some time ago I saved a recipe for home made ricotta cheese! I searched for it tonight and read not just the recipe but your story. Thank you so much – every time I make ricotta cheese, or even see it in a supermarket, I will think of you xx

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