So Nice

comments: 70














I had the nicest birthday. Every minute of it was so nice. It's wonderful to have a birthday fall on a Sunday! I loved it. I had a plan to make my birthday cake (I decided, after all, to do the usuals) and then make bolognese sauce and stuffed shells (from Craig Claiborne via my NYT cooking app). Stuffed shells have been my favorite food since childhood. Andy and Amelia went grocery shopping and got some very fancy ingredients, including handmade ricotta cheese, which was delicious. I made the sauce (but forgot to add the basil and cream at the end) and then my back was bothering me from sitting in the wrong chair for too long at lunch at our neighbor's the day before (it seems fine now) so A & A took over and made the cheese filling and assembled the shells for me while I knit and watched ice skating. It was great. Outside it was cold and gray but inside it was warm and cozy. I got sweet presents and cards and texts and talked on the phone a lot. Before we ate the cake, we put the big camera on the tripod and took some timer selfies of the three of us, which was so much fun. My mom had been reorganizing some things in her house and found a picture of my grandpa with me when I was a baby. She found it in his passport, where he apparently kept it for years and years. I was really touched, and I don't think I've ever seen exactly that picture before. The other picture is of my dad holding me above his head while my sister watched. He used to do this with us all the time. We're standing in front of his teal blue Cadillac. My dad passed away on my birthday, eighteen years ago. It's always a bittersweet day. But I was surrounded by love and family and friends and food and animals and light and warmth, which was the best present in the world.

Here's a delicious present for you:

Stuffed Shells from Craig Claiborne/New York Times

Bolognese Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup (2 ounces) bulk sausage
1/2 cup onion chopped fine
1/3 cup celery diced fine
1/2 cup carrot diced fine
1/2 pound beef ground fine
1/2 pound pork ground fine
2 chicken livers, chopped fine, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste, if desired
Generous grinding of black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups imported canned Italian plum tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
1/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan or casserole and add the sausage, onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring, until onion is wilted.

Add the beef, pork and chicken livers and cook, stirring down with the side of a heavy metal spoon to break up lumps, until meats lose their raw look. Add the rosemary, nutmeg, salt, pepper, wine and tomato paste. Stir to blend.

Puree the tomatoes in a food processor or blender or crush them by hand. Add the tomatoes and the broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer, skimming the surface of fat, 1 1/2 hours.

Stir in the basil and cream and remove from the heat.


Ricotta Cheese Filling (stuffs about 18 large shells)

2 cups (1 pound) ricotta cheese
1/2 cup finely diced Mozzarella cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drop jumbo shells into boiling water and cook about 10 minutes or until tender but not overcooked. Drain.

Spoon layer of sauce over bottom of casserole large enough to hold stuffed shells in one layer.

Fill each shell with equal portions of ricotta cheese mixture. Arrange shells stuffed side up in casserole. Spoon remaining sauce over shells. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake 25 minutes.


Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing your lovely home and family with your readers.

Happiest birthday wishes, dear Alicia!! What a perfectly cozy celebration.

Happy Birthday!!! Made more special by little hands making your dinner!!
Thank You So Much for the recipe, it really looks so good. I'm definitely making this weekend.

Happy Birthday! I love your birthday photos, they are gorgeous and cozy and happy. The dinner sounds delicious too.
And may I say, your dad was quite the hunk ;-)

Glad you had a lovely birthday. Wonderful photos, especially the family ones. And a divine cake, on such a beautiful plate. Nicely done. CJ xx

Sweet birthday wishes still wished for you! How nice it is to see you in your family pictures! And that one of Amelia on the countertop stirring!!! . . . . that is one for the ages and priceless! What a lovely day you enjoyed.

Those are such beautiful photos of the three of you!!

*H*A*P*P*Y* * *B*I*R*T*H*D*A*Y*!*!*!* Alicia! I consider you a friend so I loved being able to feel a part of your celebration. I loved all the photos, the one of Mimi on the counter.. adorable! And your family portraits, you will be so glad you did that. I also LOVE stuffed shells, and your dinner looked so delish that I printed the recipe up and will give it to our DIL who loves to cook. Have a faboo week! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

Happy birthday! My birthday is coming up, too, and I basically want you to descend upon my home and make it look as cozy and amazing as yours :)

Happy Birthday Dear Alicia. May your year be full of health- happiness and love.

Happy Birthday!!!!! I'm so glad you had such a wonderful day!!!

I've been reading and loving your blog for years and never commented but the photos of you all at the table beaming is just the best. It's what it's all about. Happy happy birthday!

How wonderful and generous to allow us to have a window into your world. It looks like you had a lovely birthday and all the very best wishes for the year to come.

Dawn Andrews says: January 09, 2018 at 01:16 PM

Happy Birthday! I love the old photos and the new timer selfies. You have a beautiful family. Thank you for the recipe.

Happy Happy Birthday to you! I'm glad you had the nicest of days! Thanks for showing us the old photos.

Happy birthday! I love your birthday cake decor and the photos of the A team taking over the cooking. Then when I came to your family birthday photos, they made me smile so wide, I felt as though I was there with you. I wish you much more of this happiness for the year ahead xx

KristenfromMA says: January 09, 2018 at 01:50 PM

Happy Birthday! Your cakes are always so pretty. The family photos are fantastic.

I love the photo of your grandpa and the one of your Dad - all those special memories of people we've loved and who so obviously loved us - it's a great gift to be surrounded with love. And now you're making memories with your own family and filling their worlds with love too - it certainly makes the world go round! Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday! Can't wait to try this recipe and your cake, as always, looks wonderful!!
My husband's mother passed away on his birthday, so it is always bittersweet. Your Dad looks so handsome!

Darlene north says: January 09, 2018 at 02:59 PM

Thank you for the recipe and Happy Birthday belated.
Hope your year us full of good things and surprises!!

Happy belated birthday, dear Alicia! My dad's birthday is the day after mine, so I've always shared, which makes it seem extra special to me.

aw that sounds like it was a fabulous birthday! Happiest Birthday to you!!!!

Happy birthday Alicia!! I love the photos with the three of you. Adorable! It looks like a lovely celebration. Sending birthday hugs!!

You always inspire me and I think my new inspiration for the year is going to be to make cakes. How’s that for a “resolution”? Perfect, I think.
Happy birthday, and blessings in this new year.

Happy Birthday! Your birthday post made my day! My daughter and I watched I ice skating on Sunday too.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.