Sometimes the fun in celebrating a holiday is in taking an idea as far as it can go, and then a little bit further. For Valentine’s Day, Jenny and I each did something like this. A week in advance, when Jenny had a dentist appointment and I took the kids for the afternoon, we went in search of the best local ice cream in the area. Our search took us far and wide, first to a family-owned dairy farm and creamery out in the country, then to an ice cream shop in the city that boasts unusual vegetable flavors. At the first we picked up s’mores ice cream: chocolate, with marshmallow cream and graham crackers mixed in. At the second we found two interesting flavors: sweet potato pie and cardamom. We were in the car for a long time, but I think it was worth it. To keep the ice cream a secret, I hid it in the back of the freezer and asked Jenny not to go poking around back there. Elena did a great job keeping her promise not to tell Jenny about the present.
Jenny’s grand Valentine’s Day plan was substantially more creative. She made heart-shaped everything: individual meatloaves, jello jigglers, and bites of fresh pineapple and cantaloupe. It was truly impressive. She also appealed to my sweet tooth with a bouquet of marshmallows and heart-shaped jelly candies. One thing didn’t work out quite as she had expected: it turns out that vanilla pudding is just a little bit yellow, so the addition of red food coloring makes it orange instead of pink. It was just as tasty, especially when served in parfait-style layers with whipped cream. There was one more thing that wasn’t ready until the next day, because it took longer to set up than Jenny had anticipated. It was a batch of homemeade marshmallows, which is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. They tasted great, and the texture was much better than store-bought ones. I hope that I get to help the next time we make marshmallows, and maybe we’ll experiment with other colors, flavors, or mix-ins.
Less than a week later, we celebrated Washington’s Birthday in the biggest way we could imagine, by going to Mount Vernon. Leisa alerted us to the fact that admission would be free and that there would be activities, including a birthday celebration and the laying of a wreath at Washington’s tomb. We made plans to meet up and spend the day with her, Sam, Vera, and Granny Annie. On the day of the event, we arrived early enough to get parking, but everyone else got there later and had a harder time–I think Grandma enjoyed her one mile hike in from a remote parking area, but she almost missed our tour of Washington’s home. While she was walking, we watched the wreath laying ceremony, which was performed by a real-life General with an honor guard of contemporary servicemen representing all of the Armed Forces.
One highlight of the day was the demonstration by Revolutionary War reenactors of some of the tactical maneuvers employed by Washington’s troops; later in the day we saw them marching around the grounds several times. Roman especially enjoyed the drum and fife corps that followed them, but after that it was time for us to warm up inside, so we found a cottage where a Mrs. Washington interpreter was taking questions from the audience, then enjoyed the sunshine on the back yard of the mansion, where there’s a beautiful view of the Potomac. After that we knew we needed to head out to our lunch–Grandma had brought something in her thermal cooker.
On the way to the exit and the cars, we did suffer a small mishap. Jenny saw a statue of the General and knew that I would want to copy its pose in a picture, but as she pulled the camera from her pocket it fell on the hard floor and broke. I was pretty upset because it was a brand new camera that I had given her as a Christmas present. I spent most of the afternoon trying to figure out how much it would cost to have it repaired, but then a thought came to my mind. Here’s a fun fact that I figured out: there are just about ninety days between Thanksgiving and Washington’s Birthday. Coincidentally, many credit cards offer a 90 day warranty on new purchases that even covers accidental damage! That will certainly help me to have fond, rather than sour, memories of how we spent Washington’s Birthday.