A Heartfelt Birthday Do-Over, Homemade Ravioli, and a Giveaway!

by Julie Ruble on October 24, 2010 · 68 comments

This weekend, I drove a total of 320 miles or 6 hours total for one magical road trip. It was inspired by a sweet gesture from Mike, and turned into a beautiful event for both of us. Let me tell you all about it.

I.  The Inspiration: A Childhood Dream Come True



Mike’s gift to me that inspired my road trip: a visit to the NC State Fair.

This weekend, Mike gave me a sweet gift: a do-over. He gave me the opportunity to revise a childhood memory from fifth grade.

My parents are going to kill me when they read this, because I’ve never told them anything about it. In fifth grade, my teacher scheduled a field trip to the State Fair in Raleigh, about 3 hours away. I’d never been to a fair, so I was thrilled to hear about the trip — until I heard the cost: $90. To my fifth grade brain, that might as well have been a million dollars.

I thought of my daddy going off to work third shift every night at the newspaper. I thought of my mom working late into the night to get her nursing paperwork completed. I thought of how we had to be careful to make ends meet each month despite all of their hard work.

I decided not to tell them about the field trip. I knew they would sacrifice to let me go, and I knew I’d rather stay home than let that happen. I sat at school while the other kids climbed aboard the bus to Raleigh. I’m sorry Mom and Dad — I know I should’ve given you the opportunity to send me! But my fifth grade mind was made up.

Imagine my surprise and delight when, a few weeks ago, Mike asked if I wanted to drive up and go to the State Fair. All of my fifth grade excitement came rushing back. Yes, I wanted a do-over! A second chance! A funnel cake!

In that spirit, this past weekend, Mike took me to my first fair. We ate copious amounts of fried food, petted fat billy goats, and definitely made up for lost time. It was better than it ever could’ve been in fifth grade, because Mike was by my side.


II.  Returning the Favor with a Road Trip: Mike’s Birthday Do-Over

I knew I wanted to do something special for Mike in return for what he’d done for me. Thankfully, Project Food Blog’s challenge for Round 6 was to pack up a meal and take a road trip (thank you so much for voting me through to this point). My road trip was designed to surprise Mike with his very own special do-over!



Mike’s surprise do-over.

On Mike’s birthday this past year, I really goofed. I made him handmade pumpkin ravioli — which probably sounds wonderful, except for the fact that he doesn’t like pumpkin and it tasted awful. This isn’t one of those “Oh, this could use more salt” things, y’all. It was gross.

For my road trip challenge, I decided to drive to Raleigh and throw Mike a heartfelt birthday do-over. Everything would be decorated in hearts and kisses and, most importantly, I’d make him a fantastic meal this time — one to drive all thoughts of pumpkin ravioli straight out of his mind.


The menu and decor. Note to PFB voters: the picnic basket was just for charm; all food was transported in my PFB cooler per challenge guidelines! Oh, and psst – you can enter to win this chalkboard below!

I chose to make the following dishes for our party:

-handmade, heart-shaped cheese ravioli in a meaty red sauce

-heart-shaped palmiers with goat cheese and homemade pesto

-red velvet cupcakes with heart cutouts

-giant red velvet kisses with special messages

-hot chocolate with homemade heart-shaped marshmallows


Cooler packed and ready to go!

Besides being delicious, some of the dishes had special significance. The red velvet cupcakes were planned to remind Mike of cupcakes I made for him one Valentine’s Day years ago, before I baked on a regular basis. He loved them so much that it inspired me to continue baking.

The hot chocolate represented sitting by the fire in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with him one December a couple of years ago. We hadn’t expected to have access to a fireplace on our trip, and for some reason, it made us so happy. We sat by it and sipped hot chocolate, loving every minute.




Handmade ravioli — now you see it, now you don’t.

I prepped and cooked for 3 days before hopping in my car and driving up the interstate. The venue I’d chosen for our birthday party picnic was Historic Yates Mill Park, and it turned out to be breathtaking. We spread a quilt under the shade of some gorgeous trees and ate while looking out over the mirror-like pond. Heart streamers danced in the wind beyond our picnic blanket, and a few industrious ants tried to join us for our meal. We brought books to read, but ended up having too much fun playing, talking, lounging, and walking around the mill.


Heart-shaped Pesto and Goat Cheese Palmiers.


I <3 Dessert! A giant red velvet kiss, red velvet cupcakes with heart cut-outs, and hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows.

Mike was coaxed into putting on the gigantic birthday hat I bought him. We blew birthday horns, I sang happy birthday, and he blew out his candles — all just as it should have been on his real birthday. This time, there was no pumpkin disaster to overshadow the moment — just me, Mike, and our little feast.


Normal Mike, and Julie-Made-Me-Wear-This-Stupid-Hat Mike

When all the food was packed away into the car again, we spent hours dwindling about the grounds. All told, four hours slipped past us like silt along the creek bed beside the mill. We decided picnics need to be a regular event for us.



Around the Historic Yates Mill: heart streamers, beautiful trees, and the mill itself.

Between fried cheesecake, corndogs, historic mills, and heart-shaped meals, Mike and I have had an amazing weekend. Thank you to Project Food Blog for my awesome cooler, and for inspiring my birthday party do-over. Most of all, thank you, my amazing readers, for voting for me in the last 5 rounds. I’d so appreciate your votes again in round 6!

Would you like to win the aqua chalkboard showcased in this post? Posh Pilfer is giving it away to one lovely reader (deadline for entering: Thursday, 10/28 at 6pm EST; winner will be chosen via random.org). To enter, answer the following question in the comment section: What memory do you wish you could “do-over”? Think about what you could do right now to make your do-over happen — and go for it!

Want an extra entry? Follow Willow Bird Baking on Twitter, tweet this message, and leave an extra comment telling me that you’ve done so: I just entered to win a cute chalkboard from @julieruble of Willow Bird Baking: http://bit.ly/cz2iLB

Handmade Cheese Ravioli in Meaty Red Sauce



Recipe by: Adapted from Annie’s Eats (pasta and ravioli); Sauce adapted from Strawberry Hedgehog
Yield: enough pasta to serve about 2 people

Ravioli Pasta Ingredients:
2 large eggs
1/2 tablespoon water, plus more as needed (I ended up using several full tablespoons)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole ricotta
1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles
fresh basil, chopped, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, chopped, to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce Ingredients:
about 3 links of Italian sausage, crumbled and browned
2 16-oz. cans tomato sauce
4 6-oz. cans tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
chopped fresh basil to taste
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Make the pasta: In a food processor, combine the eggs, water, olive oil and flour. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are well mixed and a dough begins to form. If the mixture is not coming together, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time just until the dough is formed. Transfer the dough from the food processor to a work surface. Knead 1-2 minutes by hand. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 20 minutes. Knead again for 1-2 minutes, or until dough starts to feel more supple and elastic. Let rest for another 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. If you have a pasta machine, see instructions here for how to prepare the sheets of dough. If not, roll one piece of the dough out on a lightly floured surface, pressing hard and rolling diligently until the dough is very thin. Use a large heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut out ravioli pieces. Let these rest while you mix your filling.

Mix filling: Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Taste and season accordingly.

Assemble ravioli: Place about 1 teaspoon of filling in the middle of half of the heart shapes, leaving a clear edge around the perimeter. Dip a finger in water and lightly brush around the edges of a heart topped with the filling. Place one of the remaining pasta hearts on top and press the edges of the pasta shapes together to seal around the filling, being careful to press out any excess air. Repeat with the remaining dough shapes.

Make sauce: While browning Italian sausage, mix all other ingredients together in a bowl. Add to sausage and cook until heated through. In the meantime, cook pasta: bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the ravioli until al dente, about 4-5 minutes. Drain well and add ravioli to the sauce, tossing to coat. Serve with a spring of basil and shaved Parmesan.


At one point, my “Check Airbags,” “Low Tire Pressure,” and gas light were all lit. Glad I was only 5 minutes from my destination at this point!

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{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite October 24, 2010 at 5:09 pm

What a charming post and great story. Fab menu too – Mike is a lucky guy!

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Christina October 24, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Looks like you had a fantastic time! Love the hat :) The ravioli look delicious. mmmm.

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Mara @ What's For Dinner? October 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm

LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!!!! I knew you could do it :) I really wish I could re-do my senior trip to Spain. I would’ve been a lot more rebellious and snuck out more to eat good things and drink :)

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Tastes Better With Friends October 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Again no puppies or grandma’s but a wonderful story:) What a sport Mike is for putting on the silly hat!
Thanks for sharing, great roadtrip story and picnic:)

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Monica H October 24, 2010 at 6:52 pm

What a great little do-over. I’m glad you got to go to the state fair and he got a romantic handmade loving meal in the park. It all sounds and looks wonderful. I love it!

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Joanne October 24, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Aww this is so sweet Julie. I remember how upset you were about the pumpkin ravioli, although kitchen snafus like that happen to the best of us.

it seems like you more than made up for it with this awesome meal! I love all the hearts, love that you made your own ravs (as I call them), love the palmiers, and more than anything else in the world love red velvet.

You know you’ve got my vote!

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Emily October 24, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Lovely pictures! Yummy food!

I would redo my college career. I want to take completely different classes and have all the time in the world to decide what I want to do after I graduate. I feel like there are so many classes I didn’t take and so many things I didn’t learn.

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Sue October 24, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Well, you certainly redeemed yourself with this meal for your husband…just darling.

One thing I can’t do over, but wish I could, was missing when my daughter(in Jr. college) ran in the STATE cross-country meet! I couldn’t get off work to go(I had never missed any important events in the lives of our three kids). Even though I started working to financially help her in getting her B.A. degree, if I had it to do over I would have just gone!

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Megan October 24, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Gorgeous, gorgeous picnic! I’m sure Mike was so surprised and so appreciative of the do-over. You make some of the best looking ravioli. I still have another ravioli recipe of yours bookmarked to make one of these days.

I love that picture of the heart cut-outs in the trees. You didn’t miss a single detail.

So happy you and Mike got to spend all that time together.

Good luck!

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KeepItSweet October 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm

what a nice birthday do-over!! your new ravioli looks delicious

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Jordan P October 24, 2010 at 10:47 pm

I wish I could do-over making valentines for all my friends longer…. and I think I will do that this year!!

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Ravenous Rowie October 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Lovely meal! I love your cute heart theme! Very beautiful! I totally want to be eating one of those palmiers right NOW!

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Kaitlin October 24, 2010 at 11:21 pm

This post is soooo adorable. You two are cute :)

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Wei-Wei October 25, 2010 at 12:08 am

Oh, man, now that the contest is getting really serious, everyone’s going above and beyond! I keep getting amazed by every post I go to. Not even kidding.

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Jules October 25, 2010 at 3:18 am

That’s amazing! You’re so lucky to have each other!

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Tandy October 25, 2010 at 10:21 am

that is such a difficult question! I think I would like to do my wedding vows all over again as I have no clue what was said, and there is no recording of them either!

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Amelia from Z Tasty Life October 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

charming :)

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Julie M. October 25, 2010 at 11:22 am

Cute story! I really miss the fair. We used to go every year in Texas but now it’s such a long drive that we just don’t get up to it anymore.

Your birthday lunch sounds like it was a success as well!

You, of course, have my vote. Good luck!

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Duchess October 25, 2010 at 11:42 am

seriously cute. Great job.

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Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot October 25, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I heart this love theme! Everything is adorable and delicious! Good luck to you!

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gingerbreadcake October 25, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I just love the theme of your picnic/birthday party! The heart cutouts in the cupcakes are just adorable. I’m once again impressed by you and will definitely be voting for you!

A memory I wish I could do over would be my most recent trip to Florida for my birthday. There was a lot that I wanted to do and see that I missed out on.

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Ayisha October 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I wish we could do over our first anniversary. Lilla was 16 days old, Adam went to the emergency room because he hurt himself at work, and neither one of us were super-excited about celebrating.

Congrats on making it through another round, Julie!!! :o) You rock my world.

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Jennifer M. October 25, 2010 at 1:15 pm

What a lovely memory you created for you both! And Mike is such a good sport, isn’t he? You two are an adorable couple, that’s for sure!
I love those ravioli, Julie! And I know how time consuming they are to make. Great job!

If I could have a do-over, I’d choose a particular day I spent with my Grandmother. She was visiting us from out of state. I won a free sewing class and wasn’t going to go until she heard about it. She was an avid seamstress. I couldn’t say no to her request to go with me. She was thrilled! She never would have spent the money to attend such a class. She soaked up every second of that class. I hated it. I’m embarrassed at my attitude, even 30 years later. I didn’t let on how unhappy I was being there and I hope she didn’t sense it. But I’d give anything to be able to decide to be happy that I got to spend that time with her.

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Michelle October 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm

I just voted for you! Good luck and I hope you advance to the next round of Project Food Blog!

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sippitysup October 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

I can “see” the love in this one! Hope you made it home safe. GREG

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Beth October 25, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I would love to do-over my Senior Year Spring Break, when I had the chance to Visit France and Italy. I’ve forgotten so much, and lost too many pictures..and this time around I wouldn’t be so picky about what I ate and drank!!

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Beth October 25, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I tweeted! @bakedbybeth

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Danielle@Runs With Spatulas October 25, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Love the birthday party do-over idea! Too cute! And I am a sucker and love how all of the food has a heart-shaped theme.

I would totally have a re-do of my wedding. Actually if I could re-do the whole 2 weeks prior and including my wedding, that’d be awesome.

Good luck in round 6!

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kalurah October 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Everything here looks delectable! And that chalkboard is adorable.’
My do-over would be my wedding day. I regret not having my family there on my special day. I wish I could have danced with my father during the reception and shared my happiness with the people who love me the most.

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kalurah October 25, 2010 at 4:15 pm

I just tweeted your generous giveaway! :)

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Iman October 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Super cute! I love the heart shaped everything! You picked a great theme. Definitely have my vote!

A memory I’d like to do-over is when my great-grandmother was in the hospital. I was at home instead, doing my homework, talking to my friends, whatever seemed more important at the time. And the next time I got to see her was at her funeral. We were never really close but I want to go back in time and tell my stupid young self to go see her one more time.

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Amanda @ bakingwithoutabox October 25, 2010 at 5:27 pm

What awesome do-overs! Loved them! Such a good sport to wear that bday hat on the blog. Great floppy sun hat too. Okay, focusing back on food. Good stuff all around! Red velvet just makes me think awwww. Love the hearts and kisses. Voted!

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Dusti October 25, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I’d redo my proposal. I didn’t realize that my partner was proposing and I managed to mess it up so bad. I mentioned FaceBook for crying out loud! Luckily, we’re engaged so that’s all that matters… to make it up I want to have family portraits taken with us and our puppy and surprise her with a ring. This way there will be photos for us to always remember.

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Kashia October 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm

a. NC state fair rocked my socks and clogged my arteries, glad to see you guys braved the fried glory
b. cutest redo ever, so sweet and thoughtful, PFB aside…but of course the food looks great too!

my vote is yours <3

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Abbey October 25, 2010 at 8:00 pm

This is so incredible! All the food looks so delicious. And state fairs are awesome. <3

I have often thought about having a do-over for college. I picked a bad major to begin with, so I wonder what it would have been like if I'd been a history major from the start. I don't regret it, necessarily, but it's odd to think about how things could be much different.

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Lisa October 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm

I love this post. :) Just filled with love. :D

If I could re-do anything, I’d love to re-do the last conversation I had with my dad a couple of days before he died. The only thing I really remember is telling him I loved him and vice versa. If I knew it was going to be the last time we talked, I’d have said so much more.

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Erin October 25, 2010 at 8:43 pm

Cute cute! I voted earlier but I’m just getting around to commenting! I’m not sure what I would do over… I might like to do over this past valentines day with my husband. I didn’t really go all out for it like I could have! :)

I love how you made the picnic so special… and that was awesome of him to take you to the fair!

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Rachèle @ a.k.a. jolie October 25, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I love that you write personal stories with your entries along with the beautiful pictures and awesome recipes!

This has quickly become my a favourite blog of mine! I was at home sick all weekend and spent an hour or two going over your older entries. Just incredible! I can only hope to become as good a blogger as you one day, maybe I’ll start with trying those croissants! :)

You’ve got my vote for sure!!

R.

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Chanelle Allison October 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm

If i could i’d do-over a school trip i had in the sixth grade. It was a week long trip to Washington D.C. And it was my first time traveling with out my parents. I didn’t take one picture of myself or anything unique! I just took out of focus ones of monuments and ended up losing some money in the process.

So now that I’m older, I’m gonna plan a trip with some of my friend back to D.C and make so much more of my time there. Actually take pictures of me and my friends, and make lots more memories.(and hold on to my money!)

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Michelle Torres October 25, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Awhhhhh, this was such a sweet story!!!! I love how creative you were with the adorable meal you had prepared, and how Lucky you were to make it to the NC State Fair, and I only live maybe 45 min geutes away, and did not get to make it there this year, but I am soooooo Happy you were able to go!!!!!

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Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella October 26, 2010 at 7:07 am

Aww what a sweet story Julie! You were a gem from the very beginning! And I just realised that I read your entire story with a smile on my face :)

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Peggu October 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

Wow! What a great picnic idea! Mike is one lucky guys, and you’re one lucky girl too!

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thejoyofcaking October 26, 2010 at 9:50 am

What a great story. Great day’s for both of you! Best wishes.

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natalie (the sweets life) October 26, 2010 at 11:03 am

oh my gosh, amazing! you’ve outdone yourself once again..after I comment I’m heading to foodbuzz to vote for you :)

my memory i’d like to do over? can i just relive my wedding day? (2 yrs ago yesterday!) I don’t want to change anything, just want to experience it all again!!

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Katie October 26, 2010 at 11:13 am

Those cupcakes look AMAZING (well, everything you make always does, but I guess my sweet tooth’s acting up again)!

As for a do-over…I think I’d like to do-over one of those times in high school where I held myself back because I felt it wasn’t “cool enough” or I wasn’t “good enough” to let loose and enjoy myself (there were a lot, haha). I’ll do an extra dorky dance to start the do-over today. :P

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Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen October 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

Your red velvet cupcakes are crazy red, I love it! I’m also loving your heart shaped marshmallows. Great post, good luck!

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Maranda October 26, 2010 at 6:01 pm

What an awesome meal Julie! I remember those pumpkin ravioli that you posted about. I’m so glad you were able to do all of this. Especially with the one you love! Congratulations!

I think the only thing I would do over is my wedding honestly. Unfortunately, I let my mother rule a lot of my choices and it ended up being her wedding. I would love to see what my wedding would be with my own thoughts and opinions.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful picnic with us!

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Jackie October 26, 2010 at 6:37 pm

I said I would be back to comment and then, uh, I didn’t. Because I am lame. But I really loved this entry – it was adorable and just wonderful. I particularly loved the paper streamer you made!

Awesome entry as always, my dear. Good luck!

Jax x

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Ben October 27, 2010 at 3:52 am

Such a sweet story and pictures. Thanks for sharing. :)

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Amy Bakes Everything October 27, 2010 at 6:29 am

So gorgeous! I am so voting for you and looking forward to your next entry.
My one do-over wish: Go back to my wedding/reception and not get so drunk.

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meaghan (the decorated cookie) October 27, 2010 at 7:51 am

I love it! This is the cutest ever. And now I wanna go on a road trip. Got my vote :)

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Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes October 27, 2010 at 8:58 am

Ah, Julie that is just darling. Mike is a lucky man.
LL

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Saveur October 27, 2010 at 9:10 am

I really love your post about your redo birthday party! It sounds lovely but most importantly it is the thought that counts.

Do-over wish: Good Friday 2009. Gah, I still shiver. ;)

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Joie de vivre October 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm

You guys are adorable! I love this post. You have my vote. This is my first time on your site! Found you through Foodbuzz. :)

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Vivian (AKA Mom) October 27, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Glad you had such a great time. Sad to think of you sitting in that classroom, though! I wish you would have just gone!! Memories are worth the money!

I wish I would have found that KK burger!!

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Laura @ Backstage Pass October 27, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I think I said, “aww” about ten times while reading this post. You’ve got my vote!
P.S. LOVE the cutouts on the cupcakes. I am going to have to try this at home!

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Pretend Chef October 27, 2010 at 2:07 pm

If given a chance for a do-over it would have to be my road trip with my dad when I was 16. I had just got my driver’s license and he planned a two week road trip with lots of driving experience for me. I was in too much of a hurry to make it to Las Vegas to see a boy that I passed up a picnic near a river in Bend, Oregon with him. It was the only thing he had wanted to do and being the selfless man that he is watched the river pass by. I regret it to this day. I’d love to take a play from your book and make a picnic with those pesto and goat cheese palmiers. Yummy!

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Jordan October 27, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Lovely meal. Gave me a few ideas I am sure my boyfriend with love. I would redo a trip to Europe. It was a once in a lifetime trip but I was too cheap to buy myself any souvenirs or anything.

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Maija October 27, 2010 at 3:57 pm

your blog is so wonderful! I’m a new reader from PFB but I’m so excited to continue with you!!
As for a do-over… I think I would re-do a suuper expensive study abroad program I paid for in Switzerland where the culture was so close to my home and go somewhere more different and challenging like South America or Africa. (But I still LOVED my time in Switzerland, sooo much good cheese and chocolate!!)

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eataduckimust October 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm

whoah, how cute is this blog post? i love it!!!! happy do-overs to the both of you :)

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Kimmy October 27, 2010 at 10:28 pm

I love this story, so very sweet! Great post!

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Mariko October 28, 2010 at 1:21 am

Savory Palmiers! Genius, really. It’s so nice to share a meal with someone you have history with. Thanks for bringing me your link!

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Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops) October 28, 2010 at 9:02 am

What a heartfelt post, had a lump in my throat reading it. Loved the theme & the setting.

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Reeni October 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

This was so sweet! I’m happy that you finally had your trip to the fair. And I love your heart themed food! Delicious. Best of luck!

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Jeanne October 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm

What a gorgeous setting and your picnic looks delicious! Similar to your pumpkin ravioli incident, I have a few recipes that have turned out less than appetizing, and I’d like to “do over”. It’s always a little disappointing when you work so hard and then the result is not tasty. But you’ve definitely redeemed yourself here. You have a vote from me!

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Dmarie November 28, 2010 at 8:23 pm

you must have wonderful parents to have grown so thoughtful by the 5th grade…wow!

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Julie @ Willow Bird Baking November 28, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Aw, I do have wonderful parents :) I think I was just a hypersensitive child, though ;) Thanks, love.

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