Wish Betty a Happy Birthday!


I’ve been talking about my mother Betty being 80 years old for the past 5 years. I’ve been lying. The truth is, Betty isn’t 80 years old yet. She turns 80 on Sunday. Betty Jean Bertelsen turns 80 years old on Sunday.

Betty !

This is Betty at a jewellery making course we took last year.  Betty is donning her “I’d rather be quilting face.”.


This is Betty on an elephant in Thailand.  Betty is donning her “I’d rather be making jewellery face.”.


Betty Jean Ledger, as she was known, prior to marrying the handsome Norman, was a bit of a handful. A wild child who jumped out of bedroom windows in the middle of the night to meet boys and even more frightening for her parents, almost became a nun. Those two things, being wild and being a nun, might seem counterintuitive, but when you think about it, nuns are pretty out there.   They wear all black, pray an extraordinary amount and definitely don’t spend a lot of time drinking martinis at the Casino.   Betty recognized early on she wasn’t cut out for the nunnery or any other occupation that would frown upon drinking and swearing.

So she became a switchboard operator.

She’s hung up her telephone several decades ago but based on the amount of times she calls me during the day I think she misses it.

So her 80th birthday.  Betty did NOT want a party. So no party.  There will be no 80th birthday party for Betty.  Just a BBQ with myself and my sisters and Betty’s closest friends, many of whom were also switchboard operators.  I’ll have to ask them how many times a day they call their children.

The party is at the house of Pink Tool Belt’s (who you can see here helping me build my chicken coop) because she has the biggest backyard. Not that we need a big backyard since this is a tiny BBQ and not a party.  I’ll be making some of the food and she and Fish Pedicure will be making some as well.  For whatever weird reason, Betty decided she wanted Back Ribs as her 80th birthday dinner.  How are we supposed to put on any kind of classy affair when everyone at the shindig is going to be sucking on their fingers and wiping BBQ goo out of their eyebrows. Do you know how difficult it is to have a normal conversation with an 80 year old man who has BBQ sauce in his eyebrows?  It’s hard.  It’s very, very hard. I mean it’s understandable they’d get a bit of sauce in there, what with 80 year old men having 2 foot long eyebrow hairs but it doesn’t make it any easier on the person looking at them.

Betty also wants Bacon wraps as an appetizer. So it’ll be your basic festival of pork. L’chiam and shalom.

I put myself in charge of the back ribs since I’m the only one in the family in possession of a bona fide smoker and an award losing BBQ sauce recipe.

I’m also going to make bruschetta appetizers and …. the cake.

The. Cake.

I started making the cake today.  If I do one element a day for the next 3 days I should be in good shape.

It’s a 9 layer, Naked Lemon Verbena sponge cake filled with homemade lemon curd, whole raspberries and vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing.   So that should be gross.

I came up with the cake with the help of chef Signe Langford. We talked it out over email.  I wanted something seasonal and fresh and preferably something I could use my strawberry jam with.  But I’m not using my strawberry jam. I’m making use of my lemon verbena plant instead, which is fine. I like lemon flavour over strawberry anyway and I’m REALLY excited to actually make something out of my lemon verbena plant as opposed to just walking past it, ripping off some leaves and shoving them up my nostrils.

I was thinking of making a potato chip cake actually, but 80 year old men also nose whistle when they’re angry and I didn’t want to get into that after the whole eyebrow thing.  80 year olds don’t want potato chip cakes. They want cake cakes.  With icing and a lot of beer.

The cake will be decorated with lemon verbena leaves, raspberries and fresh flowers from my cutting garden.  If you haven’t heard of a naked cake it looks something like this …



Basically it’s a cake with no icing.  Not on the outside anyway, there is on the inside.  It was all the rage at weddings last year, so I’m nothing if not up on wedding cake trends from 2014.  Can’t call me out of touch.  This particular cake is a bit too much for me. It’s very LOOK AT ME I’M A CAKE COVERED WITH STUFF … ALL KINDS OF STUFF … I’M VERY SPECIAL, I AM!!  I’d like my cake to be a little more reserved. A little cooler.  This cake is trying too hard.  This cake is  Katy Perry.  My cake will be Lady Gaga thank you very much.

Something closer to this maybe …



I think maybe this cake is more Audrey Hepburn now that I see it.


If I have time I’ll photograph it for you, but I imagine Sunday is going to be a bit of a shitshow trying to get everything ready, the ribs smoked, the cake assembled, the appetizers made, plus I’d like to get to my sister’s house early so I can laze around and kind of make fun of her while she cleans her already clean house.  She cleans her potato bin all the time.  This is a woman who has a perpetually clean potato bin.  If I get around to photographing the cake, I’ll put it up next Friday.  I’m off on Monday because it’s a holiday in Canada and although I did consider blogging on Monday I decided you all can suck it, I deserve a day off. For those of you who don’t speak Canadian, suck it means, You’re super special, but I need some time alone away from you.  You know. Where you’re not here, and I’m just alone and you are away.  From me.  

Since Betty’s birthday is on Sunday (when I don’t have a post going up) I thought I’d give those of you who are fans a chance to wish the 80 year old Betty (who passed her mandatory, “I’m really old and maybe should walk places instead”, drivers test today!) a Happy Birthday.

And for those of you who aren’t fans or don’t know who the hell this Betty person is, you can learn a bit about Betty  here and here and here in her 75th birthday post where you’ll learn more about the nun thing and also see a photo of her with the handsome Norman.

Let the birthday wishes commence.

Have a great weekend and keep your eyebrows clean.



  1. Cheryl says:

    Happy Birthday Betty and many, many more!

  2. Alana says:

    Hippo birdie two ewe, Betty! On an elephant? An elephant?! Oh my!

  3. Vivian says:

    Happy Birthday Betty from Nova Scotia!

  4. Phyllis Kraemer says:

    Betty, I wish you the best of days this coming Sunday!…Do all the things that are deserving of that special day, laugh lots, hug lots, drink lots, love lots and most of all ….eat lot of cake!! Then you can sit back for a moment…looking at those lovely daughters of yours..and pat yourself on the back for having raised three interesting, fun, amazing daughters!..Nice work Birthday Lady!! Have a great day Betty!

    • Mary W says:

      You just said everything I was going to – Karen makes her so endearing to us all with those vivid descriptions and ability to laugh at anything. Betty sure did a good job! I suspect I should have said Betty sure does a god job since no one really grows up in this family. Happy Birthday Betty!

  5. maggie van sickle says:

    Happy happy day Betty. You are who I want to be like when I grow up. I am 70. Bahaha. Have a great day with your gals and your friends you truly deserve it.

  6. Susan Stanford says:

    Happy Birthday Betty!

  7. Leslie says:

    Wishing Betty all the best on her 80th. Hugs and kisses to her!

  8. magali says:

    Happy birthday Betty!!
    The post where Karen spins you around to determine the winner of a contest is still one of my favourites that I remember well!
    Enjoy all the pork!

  9. Trish says:

    A ‘ Very Happy 80th Birthday Wish’ to Betty Jean…
    it’s obvious that you are living life to the fullest…
    enjoy this special occasion with your beautiful daughters and family and friends…

  10. bonnie says:

    Happy Birthday Betty! Have fun with no “I’d rather be making jewelry” photo ops.

  11. Cathy says:

    First of all Ms Betty, you and my guy have the same birthday so you’re in. Secondly Ms. Karen, get SOMEONE, ANYONE to shoot that cake!!!! Your neice, neighbor, random streetwalker…just shoot it!!!!
    Have a great 80!!!

  12. Mare Pendleton says:

    In addition to birthday wishes for Betty I’d also like to say congratulations to you Karen, on having such a great mom, and such a great relationship with her. I read your posts and look at the pictures and I’m envious (in a good way – I’m glad for you!)

    Have a really great barbecue – it sounds like a blast! Happy B-day Betty!

  13. Laurie says:

    Happy birthday, Betty! Enjoy your day!

  14. M says:


    Wishing you a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

    I want to be like you when I grow up!


  15. Maura says:

    Bonne Fete Betty from Montreal!

  16. Cat Collins says:

    Happy birthday Betty and congrats on passing the driving test!

  17. Jenny W says:

    HaPpY BiRtHdAy Betty! I hear you are one Awesome Mom :)

  18. Diana says:

    All the Best from over here!!! Happy birhtday! I wish you all, what the others before me haven`t said yet!!! Have a great day.

  19. Terry Brittian says:

    Happy Birthday Betty! Hope you have a wonderful day.

  20. Maureen Locke says:

    Happy Birthday Betty, enjoy your not a party but party like it is a party. :) Please make sure Karen takes a picture of your cake and everyone eating ribs slathered with not award winning bbq sauce. May your day be filled with love, laughter, and perhaps a present or two.

  21. Twyla Harkey says:

    Happy Birthday Betty from Oklaoma!!
    Have an awesome 80th!!

  22. Sam says:

    Happy Birthday Betty! Hope you enjoy your bbq (definitely not party) on Sunday. You are such an inspiration to us in how you live life to the full and you look fabulous for it. Many hugs from the UK xx

  23. Grammy says:

    Happy Birthday, Betty! It’s not surprising that you were a Wild Child because your daughter clearly was reared by a mother who knows something about fun and fearlessness. Besides, Karen tattles on you all the time. Enjoy your nonparty and have a great next year.

    It was my birthday yesterday. I think they’re much more fun than they used to be. I suspect you do, too.

  24. Elmine says:

    Happy 80th Birthday Betty! I wish you health and happiness for many more years to come. With love, all the way from sunny (but very cold and windy) South Africa.

  25. Anna says:

    Best Wishes, Betty! And I hope all your birthday dreams and wishes come true for your 81st year…

  26. Paula says:

    Happy Birthday, Betty! A true testament to the lady you are, is the daughter you have :) Congrats on the driving test ‘pass’.

  27. Mama M says:

    Have a brilliant birthday Betty and I hope you chomp ribs like an animal, slurp sauce off your fingers, guzzle beer like a trooper and all in all enjoy being the Wild Child you still are!! Take advantage of everyone on your special day, kick back and do all the things Nicely Behaved Ladies dare not do!!

  28. Tracie says:

    Happiest of Birthdays Betty, you are a doll! And Karen, I don’t know what to say…you have the most incredible ability to convey humour and seriousness, in one fell swoop! I so wish I would have had the benefit of your advice in writing my mother’s eulogy, for her Celebration of Life this month. I was out of my element. Anyway, it went amazingly well, all things considered. We had bagpipes! Yah, it was awesome…As for your clean freak sister (sorry), I had one too! I so relished heading to her place to visit, knowing all the while she had a meticulously made bed that was screaming for me to jump on…drove her nuts! Family is awesome…bumps, bruises, and all. I guess I will be “sucking it” along with everyone else on Monday, minus the ribs, whoa is me…looking forward to Wednesday though, and it better be a gooder.

  29. Pati Gulat says:

    Happy happy birthday, Betty !!!


  30. ruth says:

    Happy birthday Betty! You’ll always be 80 to me! You rock.

  31. Serduszko says:

    Happy birthday Betty!!! Sto lat!

  32. Kathleen says:

    The happiest of happy birthday’s to you, Betty. May your special day be filled with peace and love. May the rest of the year continue to be be filled with life’s richest Blessings.

    Karen, I snorted coffee through my nostrils at the “L’chiam and shalom” comment.

    Excuse me, got to clean my monitor now!

    OH, PS… you will be missed on Monday. Just because it’s a holiday there, means we have to suffer? :)

  33. Lynn Johannson says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY BETTY!!!!!! You’re an inspiration to us all!!!!!

  34. Tammy says:

    Have a great birthday with your friends and family! You are an inspiration!

  35. Pam says:

    Betty, I feel sure this will be the funnest 80th birthday you’ll ever have! I also think Karen is feeling a bit neglected these days and would really appreciate a phone call from you. :-) Have a happy cake day!

  36. Kath Porten says:

    Betty, I love birthdays, I hope you have a wonderful day!

  37. ardith says:

    Happy Birthday, Betty! And many more. P.S. I am duly impressed by the two of you, women who are not afraid to break out the can of whoop-ass.

  38. Muff says:

    A very happy birthday, Betty! We celebrated my dad’s 79th yesterday – it was a great era!

  39. holly says:

    Happy Birthday, Betty! All of the blogs your talented daughter has written involving you are included in my favorites.

    Have a great birthday with your friends and family!

    Best wishes from Holly in Arizona.

  40. Jennifer says:

    Happy Birthday, Betty! You’re the same age as my mother, Barbara, but you’re far more spunky. I hope your small BBQ is a lot of fun. I do enjoy reading about the exploits of your daughter and your family. Best wishes for another great year!

  41. Linda says:

    BETTY—Happy 80th from a 70th. You are an inspiration. I hope that you have an amazing b’day party with your amazing daughters (I have them too). Life is great! And I hope to wish you a happy 90th.

  42. Marianne says:

    Happy Birthday Betty!!! Sounds like one heck of a non-party!

  43. virginia says:

    Happy, Happy, Happy Celebrating!

  44. ronda says:

    best wishes for a great birthday Betty! from another Betty’s daughter.

  45. Suzanne says:

    Happy birthday Betty! Have a roaring good time. Do all the things that embarrass your kids, and lots of cake and fireworks. What no fireworks? Well next week then. Woot woot!

  46. Becky says:

    Happy Birthday Betty! You give us younger spunky girls hope that the spunk can last into the golden years.

    May you have a year of health and happiness!

  47. Debbie from Illinois says:

    Happy Birthday Betty!!! I hope you have a fabulous party with your family and friends!!!

  48. Auntiepatch says:

    Happy Birthday Betty from another Betty (me) AND former switchboard operator! Old switchboard operators don’t retire; they just pull the plug!!! LOL! Operator humor…….

  49. Patti P says:

    Happy birthday, Betty. You are gorgeous! Enjoy every second of your special day.

  50. peg says:

    Happy 80th Birthday Betty :D

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