Forever Evolving Family Traditions - Penny Lane Blog at - 284591

Penny Lane

Forever Evolving Family Traditions 
Sep. 21, 2012 9:27 am 
Updated: Oct. 14, 2012 9:19 am

As the holiday season approaches I have been thinking about our family traditions and how they have changed and evolved.   Getting everyone together for Thanksgiving and Christmas is getting harder and harder.  Our Christmas day mass gathering has moved to Christmas Eve so that all the kids can enjoy their new goodies all day long and not be whisked off to Nana's house.  With stores staying open on Thanksgiving day the older grandkids had to work last year.  But there is one event that everyone attends and that is Birthday dinner night!

When our children were young we started birthday dinner.  

On your birthday you got to choose the menu - we often had some very interesting meals, like spaghetti with ice cream jello, but it was all good because it was a special day and memories were made.  

As our children grew into adults and started their own family traditions it became increasingly difficult to do "birthday dinner" for everyone.  With  grown children, their spouses and 12 grandchildren between them, that is a lot of birthday dinners.  

A few years ago we started the group birthday dinner - 3 or 4  times a year we all gather for a mass celebration.  Anyone with a birthday in that time frame gets to pick their favorites.  Tonight is birthday dinner and as usual the menu is huge and varied - one thing for certain is that our family lacks vegetarians and is heavy on the carboholics.

On the menu for tonight for our birthday peeps.  

Shrimp and Scallops 


Mashed potatoes and gravy

Mac & Cheese - the blue box variety  

Spaghetti and meatballs with Focaccia

Beef Tenderloin roast and a green salad with Ranch

We set the table as if it were Thanksgiving or Christmas and break out the 'good' glasses - which the kids absolutely love.  

Let the party begin!  

We survived.  

The dishes are done and the kids have headed home.  


The food came out of the kitchen in waves and was consumed in waves.  

The kids loved the buffet and I over heard many compliments not the least of which was....

"This is better than Home Town Buffet!" 

Gosh, I hope so....

"Where are the ribs?" 

"Sarah, there are no ribs tonight." 


"It isn't your birthday honey and nobody else ordered ribs"

"Why not?  Nana's ribs are great.... my cousins need to learn to order ribs." 

"Papa, can you help us get a cow?" 

"A cow? Why do you need a cow?"

"Cause Nana said we drink so much milk we need to get a cow."

And the best thing I heard tonight .....

"Thanks, Mom and Dad" 

"I love you Nana and Papa."  

Another Birthday dinner under our belts - until next time.   

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Sep. 21, 2012 10:06 am
Let the traditions evolve! You've got me beat in the grand kid department by 5. Our grands love breaking out the 'good' glasses too. Fiesta stemware of course. How lucky your grands are to have you. May the memories continue.
Sep. 21, 2012 10:13 am
bd - I find myself passing the baton to my children, just as my mother in law passed it to me many years ago. Where did all those years go? But Birthday dinner is MINE - at least for now. The 'good' glasses make the evening for the grands. Good memories being made!
Sep. 21, 2012 10:26 am
That photo brightens my day. Thanks for sharing your family traditions.
Sep. 21, 2012 10:33 am
Thanks Marie. Those kiddos brighten my day too. We are blessed, for sure.
Sep. 21, 2012 10:40 am
Those two look so happy. What a wonderful memory they share.
Sep. 21, 2012 10:47 am
Thanks Rosebud. That is a picture from our last birthday dinner celebration. I think they are grinning cuz they got to use the 'good' glasses!
Sep. 21, 2012 12:49 pm
What a great tradition BN. Thanks for sharing.
Sep. 21, 2012 1:16 pm
I hear the wistfulness in this and I so relate. My children are adults too and my SILs and I have also handed the holidays over for the most part. Sadly my only grandchildren are on the opposite side of the country so I see them infrequently. But we do something sort of similar with the niece's and nephew's birthdays. It is a lovely tradition.
Sep. 21, 2012 1:50 pm
Thanks for stopping in Cookin Up A Storm. Cupcakes are in the oven and the bread is proofing. I will let you know how it all goes.
Sep. 21, 2012 1:52 pm
Ah BSM, I am a bit wistful - my babies have flown the coop and it is harder and harder to corral everyone. The major holidays are the hardest though. It is time to pass the baton to the next generation. Hopefully, Birthday Dinner will continue for years to come.
Sep. 21, 2012 3:13 pm
Beautiful photo,thanks for sharing.
Sep. 21, 2012 3:37 pm
Baking Nana, what a great menu. I love the macaroni and cheese. It looks like a grand buffet! At my house, my kids can request a birthday dinner. The menu can range from hamburgers with green chili (Sloppers,) to a Thanksgiving BIrthday Dinner. I think the best part is the gathering of all the family to celebrate!
Sep. 21, 2012 4:14 pm
How special it is to celebrate birthdays "in style" like you do. I too am a Nana, and we just know how to celebrate, don't we?
Sep. 21, 2012 4:51 pm
Love the idea! How wonderful to have family near enough to gather. Christmas and Thanksgiving are only days on a calendar. You are making your own "holy" days. B.t.w., your grandchildren are adorable! Thanks for sharing, it gave me a reason to smile!
Sep. 21, 2012 6:46 pm
What a great tradition! Pretty cupcakes with those swirls and all...
Sep. 21, 2012 7:05 pm
Magnolia Blossom stole my thunder....see above:) what a beautiful tradition kid! Your grandkids are so lucky to have you and No Baking Papa :)
Sep. 21, 2012 7:45 pm
Ahh what cuties! I didn't have a chance to read this earlier but was thinking about the title while I went about the chores. Since our family has so dwindled till it is just the 3 of us for the holidays and last year it was just the 2 of us for Thanksgiving. I know what I miss, the conversation and catching up that used to go on during the holidays. How nice to have your family close enough for birthday "holidays"!
Sep. 21, 2012 11:09 pm
Thanks manella - I updated the blog - I survived...barely...but at least I am still standing...
Sep. 21, 2012 11:13 pm
Lela - without a doubt the best part is the gathering itself. Oh gosh, the stories they tell! The 'Remember When...' stories are the best. I am still standing to tell about MY version of Remember When... LOL...
Sep. 21, 2012 11:15 pm
Paula T - I will continue to do this as long as I can. It brings me joy and also reminds me why we have children while we are young....
Sep. 21, 2012 11:19 pm
Hi Bibi - Thanks - I love those little imps! You are right - there is no law saying we can't make our own holidays. Today was one of those 'special' holidays. (BTW - I am dog, do those kids have energy.) Glad they came and equally glad they go home! ;-)
Sep. 21, 2012 11:21 pm
Hi, Magnolia Blossom. I have more swirly pics to add tomorrow - there was lots of icing - worn by almost everyone. Good fun.
Sep. 21, 2012 11:22 pm
Mauigirl - No, we are lucky to have them. We are very blessed.
Sep. 21, 2012 11:26 pm
Cat - 3 or 300 - the traditions need to carry on! Little things make a big difference in the big scheme of life. Your men might not say a thing but they are hearing every word, noticing all the beautiful things you do for them.
Sep. 22, 2012 4:45 am
What a great blog! And what a great idea for celebrating birthdays! We always let the birthday boy or girl choose their birthday dinner and we've had some strange and fun meals in the past. You are helping those little kiddos make some great memories and future "remember when" stories!
Sep. 22, 2012 6:18 am
Such adorable faces! You are making such great memories for them. We have the same tradition for birthdays. Rule is... anything goes! My daughter is 16 next Wednesday and very diet conscious. Except - on her birthday. She wants hamburgers (with a bun) home made mac-n-cheese, whipped potatoes, Fresh corn (from our garden we froze), Boston Cream Pie for her cake and I think she wanted me to make Cajun fries too but my eyes kinda rolled to the back of my head at that point. I was on carb overload! LOL - She said "It's only one day Mom! I am gonna enjoy every bite of it!" How can I say no to that? :) Rules are rules after all....
Sep. 22, 2012 6:43 am
Good morning Mother Ann - the remember when stories are great! I wish I had written down the birthday menus through the years. We could have played a game, 'Guess who ordered this....' We had a blast but I am glad it is over....until next time! :)
Sep. 22, 2012 6:47 am
What's For Dinner, mom - You are so right! Rules are rules..... Besides, it is a lot of fun. NB Papa would be right on board with your daughter's menu! Go ahead and make her those Cajun fries - it's her birthday after all! Thanks for stopping in.
Sep. 22, 2012 10:08 am
Those grandkids of yours are beautiful. The little redhead at the bottom looks just like you. What a fun tradition! I love the Cupcake too. So cute! (remembering my little GGals My Little Kitty days)
Sep. 22, 2012 11:41 am
Thank you Candice. That little red head is Ruby. Her parents named her that before birth and neither of them are red heads. How perfect is that? Hello Kitty remains very popular - everyone seems to love Hello Kitty.
Sep. 22, 2012 12:15 pm
Baking Nana, you are absolutely right! Some days it is just hard to see if the guys are actually noticing :) As for the traditions evolving, that is how life is. Always changing :) I think this year I will have to make a special effort to make my Aunt Irene's perfect peanut brittle to share at Christmas. It was one of my favorite things about Christmas when little and I know my Aunt can't make it anymore for herself or her family but I can! She gave me the recipe :)(:
Sep. 22, 2012 12:30 pm
ROFL, oh yes, it's "HELLO Kitty" not My Little Kitty. It's My Little Pony, isn't it? Jeez, I can't keep up. But, we're on to all things OWLS right now. (I crack myself up!) And, Penny, I just LOVE Red Heads.... My sweet Lisa had bright Red hair when she was born. (My Mama was Irish and a carrot top as a youngster)
Sep. 22, 2012 1:45 pm
Cat - isn't interesting how many traditions and fond memories revolve around special recipes? Aunt Irene's perfect peanut brittle must be preserved and passed forward. What a perfect Christmas present.
Sep. 22, 2012 1:46 pm
LOL - Candice, I knew what you meant.
Sep. 23, 2012 2:04 pm
Beautiful grandkkids, BN! I'm sure the memories you are creating for them today will be with them a lifetime! Very sweet!
Sep. 23, 2012 3:23 pm
Mickdee - in future they will probably laugh their heads off. The 'cousins' love to get together - they probably won't remember the food but they will remember the people and the noise. Oh gosh! The NOISE! I am still recovering. Today my "baby" turned 31 - that red head is her baby - oh heck, where did the years go?
Sep. 24, 2012 4:58 am
Baking Nana, that sounds like a wonderful family "birthday" dinner celebration. I'm sure lots of memories were made and will be remembered warmly in the years ahead. BTW I'm with the kid that wanted ribs! JP
Sep. 24, 2012 6:38 am
Kevin'sGodMom - I thought Sarah was going to cry when she realized that there were no ribs forth coming. Poor kid! I think I will have to do a special rib dinner for her. That could open up a whole can of worms though..... in the mean time I am sure she is working on her younger cousins to educate them about what foods to choose. Thanks for stopping in.
Sep. 24, 2012 7:33 am
It definitely gets harder as everyone grows up and the familty expands! But this is a wonderful tradition, and and you have lovely grandchildren. This is something all of you will hold close to your heard, and when your grandchildren have grandchildren, they will probably be telling them about this and making their own traditions based on this. Thanks for sharing this with us!
Sep. 24, 2012 8:53 am
wisweept - It makes me understand how hard it must have been for my Mother in Law to hand over the holidays. She had 5 boys and although we always included her in our holiday celebrations it must have been very difficult for her. The Family Birthday dinner is merely my way of hanging on to old traditions while letting my kids establish their own. Hopefully Family Birthday will carry on for generations to come.
Sep. 24, 2012 4:36 pm
Keeping with our traditions has also become a challenge in our family. Kind of sad. Change is hard for us. My son used to always share Christmas Day with my family and now he is being torn between my house, my sister's for our family's Christmas (always on Christmas Day) and his dad and step-mom's home. And he just wanted to stay home so we chose to change our Christmas to a couple weeks before and actually enjoyed the relaxation without rushing. So sometimes change can be good. Love your birthday tradition - especially the love and thanks you got from your family. That is what makes all the work worth it at the end of the day!
Sep. 25, 2012 7:15 am
I love the "Birthday Dinner" idea! I too have passed the baton with the exception of the Easter egg hunt. I actually love that the "kids" do all the planning and I can really enjoy.
Sep. 25, 2012 8:51 am
I would have moved my birthday in order to get a seat at this table.
Sep. 25, 2012 10:47 am
KGora - I can only imagine how hard it must be. When we moved family Christmas dinner to Christmas Eve that excluded one of the grand-daughters who is always at her mom's for Christmas Eve and then with my son & family for Christmas day. I know she really missed her cousins and the gathering here but also would have missed the gathering with her mom. Very sad. It just gets harder and harder to get everyone together....hence Family Birthday dinner. :)
Sep. 25, 2012 10:49 am
Shorecook - It is nice to be a 'guest' rather than the planner but then I find myself missing the planning too. I try to remind myself to be flexible and go with the flow. Not always an easy task.
Sep. 25, 2012 10:51 am
Good morning Doug. There was certainly something for everyone! Well, except for poor Sarah and the missing ribs. What would you order for birthday dinner?
Sep. 26, 2012 8:49 am
What a great tradition and the menu was right up my alley. There can never be too much meat:) Great blog Baking Nana!
Sep. 26, 2012 10:26 am
Hi Soup Loving Nicole. It is good to see you around these parts! We are definitely a meat eating family. I put out the spaghetti and Mac and Cheese first though, let the big eaters fill up on that and then came the burgers, tenderloin, scallops & shrimp. None the less, there wasn't much left over.
Oct. 1, 2012 6:29 am
This blog was such a treat! It reminded me of special dinners with my grandma. I understand Sarah's devotion to ribs. I feel that way about Chicken and Dumplings. :)
Oct. 14, 2012 9:19 am
I'm a bit behind...I was out of town when you posted this, but this caught my eye and heart strings. Growing families do change the celebration traditions. We also have started combining birthdays as our family grows. I don't have all the grandchildren that you do, but look forward to those years ahead, and thankful for the memories of the past traditions with those that are gone now. Lovely Blog...cute grandchildren. :-)
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Baking Nana

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About Me
Every morning my granddaughter calls and says, "Good morning Nana. Whatcha doing? Are you baking Nana?" Hence my name, Baking Nana. I love to bake bread and never get tired of it. Yeast is additive! Visit me at If you would like to contact me directly please use the 'Contact Me' on my site.
My favorite things to cook
I go through phases, Asian for a while then Italian then on to something else. I love experimenting with new flavors and different spices. Some times my husband will ask if we will ever have "ordinary" food again. Once in a while I have to toss him a burger just to keep quite! Actually, he is a good sport and my favorite taste tester.
My favorite family cooking traditions
In our family if it is your birthday you get to choose the menu. We have had some really interesting meals. In March we have 5 birthdays so we do one big party - what a crazy menu that is! Christmas dinner is very traditional. Sausage rolls, Prime Rib, Yorkshire Pudding, gravy, Green beans with bacon, Mashed Potatoes (the really fattening kind) and trifle for dessert. If I were to dare to omit any of those items I would be lynched.
My cooking triumphs
Mastering really great bread is probably my biggest triumph. I am always so pleased when I create a perfect Asian dish.
My cooking tragedies
There have been a few but none so horrible that I can't laugh about them now.
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