When Life Happens

I haven’t written in days and I’m starting to twitch. We’re moving in T minus two days. And when I say “moving” I mean we’re packing up our Brooklyn apartment, putting most of it in storage and going to stay with my dad in New Jersey, and then, after we trash his house, on to our upstate place. We were supposed to close on our new home at the end of August and move in just in time for school to start… but that’s not happening.

Why? Because life is not some stylized photo shoot. You can’t plan or stage it. You can’t decorate it with pretty props. Life is not a pristine layer cake, like the kind that populate Pinterest and fancy foodie blogs, with frosting smooth as shellac, fondant decorations, the whole thing resting on a porcelain platter atop of a rustic wooden table all beautifully backlit with a vase of flowers and a glass pitcher of milk.

photo credit, Southern Living.com

photo credit, Southern Living.com

Nope. Life is messy, chaotic, ruthless. Life is one of those sloppy homemade cakes. The kind where the layers are uneven, the whole thing leaning precariously to one side, crumbs litter the frosting, a mess of sprinkles dumped on top, a lumpy slice slapped on a plate with a plastic fork. More like this:

Real life looks more like this. Tastes better, too. photo credit, glutenismybitch.com

Real life looks more like this. Tastes better, too.
photo credit, glutenismybitch.com

Life happens and you’re supposed roll with it. Or you don’t. But there is always choice involved in how you deal with your sloppy cake. You decide if you’re going to freak out, blame everyone else, scream your brains out, yell at your kids/spouse, tear out your hair, cry, rage, throw yourself out the window (or just threaten to do so). You decide how to look at the mess. Is it garbage or a hidden Picasso? This has always been my problem. I tend to choose the dark side. I blame, rage, cry, yell, lash out. I let it take over. I let it control me.

I’ve been having some unfortunate bouts of insomnia lately, as our departure approaches. And in those late night eyeball wide moments, I see everything so clearly. I see the right way, the light way. I think, okay, I can do this! I can choose not to dwell and complain, I can choose love over anger, I can choose to see this new twist/roadblock as an adventure as opposed to a disaster.

But then I wake up. And I’m bone tired and my kids are hungry but won’t eat anything, and I’m wiping butts and making smoothies, and before I know it, all those good intentions fly out the window and my impatience and anger rolls in. I lose it and then feel sunk by my failure. By my inability to change.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I am changing, or at least trying. I’m having enlightened moments in the darkest hours of the night, even if they often disintegrate by morning. I see glimpses of difference, other ways of being.

Yesterday in between the usual child tantrums and parental misery, we had a magical moment in the park. I took Little Guy to pee behind a tree (the kid is like a dog, loves peeing outside) and it happened to be a pine tree and it happened to be populated with dozens of fireflies. It was dusk, later than we’re usually out, and we had just been talking about how we hadn’t seen any fireflies this season, and there they were alight all around us, pausing to rest on blades of grass, on the needles of the tree, inches from our faces.

I pointed at them and said, do it again, and they did. Little Guy was entranced. We brought over Bunky and her dad and we all watched with wonder and awe as dozens of people streamed into the park for a concert, oblivious to our little piece of magic. Then my husband looked up and there were two baby raccoons in the tree, lounging on the upper branches, rolling around, but mostly resting and watching us watch them.

Moments earlier we had been sitting on a cement ledge at the entrance of the park across from the apartment I lived in with my husband before we were married.

Living on the edge. Or ledge. Edge of the ledge?

Living on the edge. Or ledge. Edge of the ledge?

We looked at it, trying to remember where our apartment was, in the back or on the side, what we saw when we looked out the window. We told Bunky about how we used to hear the concerts in the park from our living room. We talked about how she would always remember Brooklyn, but Little Guy would not. Just like my husband, who had been three years old when he left Brooklyn.

I looked at my husband over the kids’ heads and we shared a silent bittersweet moment at this realization.

He may not remember this swing, but we will for him.

He won’t remember this swing, but we will for him.

We told Bunky she could tell him stories about Brooklyn. We talked about how wonderful our time had been here, that we had a good run, but we would begin fresh adventures in New Hope. I smiled as I said these things, which are all true, but it’s not my natural tendency to look at change as adventure. I usually look at it with doom, or at the least, trepidation.

But having kids changes things, people. I don’t want my kids to soak up my lifelong tendency for negativity. I’m trying hard to do what my mom used to tell me to do: see the glass half full, make lemonade out of lemons, choose sweet over sour. But it is not easy. My poor mom, I can see how I must have broke her heart with my bouts of gloomy sadness. How I refused to choose joy even when it was laid out in front of me.

I see so much of myself in my daughter and it kills me. I want to save her from myself, from herself, but I can’t. I want her to love herself and love her life and choose love, but I can’t make her do any of those things just as my mother couldn’t make me. Being a mom is brutal that way. You relive the hardest moments of your life through your kids. And the best ones, too. Like these.

Coney Island July 2014

Coney Island July 2014

coney swings

coney kids

On a city bus, Little Guy's favorite.

On a city bus, Little Guy’s favorite.

The frog, July 2014

The frog, Cutie Playground, July 2014

So, life happens. But I’m learning to roll with it. The fireflies will be there no matter where we go. We just have to look.

family portraitGoodbye Brooklyn. We will miss you.

Judy Blume, A Love Letter

I knew I wasn’t the only one! Who loves Judy Blume, I mean. Obvs. Two awesome bloggers, Dana from the Kitchen Witch and Kim from Gane Possible have created this incredible project, aptly titled, The Judy Blume Project, for all of us writers and readers who love JB. They invited any like-minded folks to write about their own personal Blume-esque experience.

blume-button

So, here’s mine…

The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard

The Reader by Jean-Honore Fragonard

I have always been a reader, and fortunately, I had the kind of parents who put up with my (obsessive) habit. I read in bed, on couches, at the kitchen table, while walking down the street, leaning against trees, and even in movie theaters and concerts (I never left home without a book in hand). It was like my adolescent security blanket.

I had a t-shirt with this crazy lady on it. Still do, actually.

I had a t-shirt with this crazy lady on it. Still do, actually.

Reading was my comfort, my pleasure, my escape. I could do anything, go anywhere, be anyone.

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite young adult authors was – and still is – Judy Blume. She is a prolific author with a gift for writing in both female and male voices, but for obvious reasons, I gravitated to her books about adolescent girls. I loved their awkwardness, confusion, humor, and social anxiety. It mirrored my own. I read and reread Deenie, Starring Sally J. Friedman As Herself, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tiger Eyes and others, wishing I could reach into the worn pages and pull out the characters. Blume’s stories nourished me, they were my surrogate friends, and in some ways, they taught me how to be a person.

Blubber, about the bullying of an overweight girl, was tough to get through. I read it with butterflies in my stomach the entire time, and whenever I thought about stopping, I kept on. Writing a book in the voice of a less than sympathetic character, Blume forced the reader to share the perpetrators’ perspective, an uncomfortable place to be. The lessons I learned about the consequences of choosing cruelty over compassion, taking the easier road over the higher one, and the price you pay for both, astounded and confounded my adolescent self. They still do.

Years later, in my early twenties, I had the opportunity to meet my hero, the author whose words shaped me, and helped solidify my desire to become a writer. I lived in Manhattan where celebrity sightings were as common as pigeons, yet I was never more star-struck than that evening.

When I saw her across the room at a National Book Award party in Gracie Mansion, I was terribly nervous. The fear of making a fool of myself was high on my list of anxieties, but so was another concern that I couldn’t put a finger on at the time. Now, I see what was at risk: a deflation of my admiration.

Well, turns out I had no need to worry. Judy was so gracious, smiling kindly as I spilled out my lifelong love for her stories, and together we talked about her books and writing.

Oh, be still my heart. I don’t think I stopped smiling the rest of the night.

I still remember talking to my mother on the phone as I walked home, dazed and gloriously happy in the cool night air, under the blazing city lights.

Thank you Judy Blume for meeting every one of my expectations, and blazing such a kickass trail of stories that helped shape a generation, and beyond.

Did you read Judy as a kid? Tell me your favorites. If not, what were (or are!) some beloved Young Adult novels?

End of Kindergarten and end of…

Bunky graduated from kindergarten. I can’t believe it. I feel like we just took this picture of her before the first day, all of us so nervous and excited.

me and Bunky first day K

And then, bam. The year’s over. Here she is in her 1950s inspired graduation outfit: a kinda lame homemade poodle skirt, my shirt, a cute scarf from Target.

Kindergarten graduation, June 23, 2014

Kindergarten graduate, 6-23-2014

Graduation, or any public performance, is really hard on our girl. She has debilitating anxiety about being in front of an audience, which is heartbreaking since she loves singing and dancing. (When she got home, she sang me the entire graduation song, “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, which makes me cry every time I hear it since it was also her preK grad song.) But she made it on stage for her graduation, in front of an enormous room of beaming adults. She ducked down, hiding between the rows of kids, but when I gestured to her from the sidelines, she wouldn’t come to me, and I’m really proud of her for that. My tender, sensitive girl. I hope her anxieties lessen over the years.

After grad, my husband escaped, I mean went to work, and I took the kids to a sprinkler playground. On the way back, Little Guy wriggled out of the stroller so he could walk with his big sister. It’s not the best picture, but it captures a little slice of our city life.

siblings walking

Which I’m rather devastated to say, we will be LEAVING in a matter of weeks.

Yes, that’s right, we’re joining the ranks of city deserters and moving out of Brooklyn. I know it’s the right thing for our family – we need more space, inside and out, and city life is funneling away all our funds, but I have to say I’m really struggling with this upcoming change.

My husband will still be commuting to Brooklyn for his job, so in a way he is only half leaving, but I will be living full time in a town where I know not a soul, in a geography that will be entirely new to navigate. To a woman who craves routine and familiarity (even when it has long stopped serving its purpose) this is HUGE.

I’m excited, too, because the area we’re moving to, New Hope, Pennsylvania, feels like it could very well live up to its name, and we already ate some fantastic gluten free pizza in nearby Doylestown, which may be where we end up, but my heart is already aching for Brooklyn.

There will probably be more frogs there, real ones.

There will probably be more frogs there, real ones.

Part of this is just my personality, all my Cancer crab homebody tendencies. I like to hunker down, I prefer the comfort of my comfort zone. It also makes sense because Brooklyn is not simply a place, but my past. It’s where I spent the careless carefree days of my youth, where I met my husband. It’s where I’ve been raising my children.

me and LG playground

Saying goodbye to Brooklyn is, in a way, like saying goodbye to a part of my life, it’s like saying goodbye to a piece of me.

I did some math recently (crazy, I know) and realized I’ve spent over 13 years living in Brooklyn, the same amount of time I spent in my childhood home from the age of 5 to 18 when I left for college. No wonder this impending move feels so significant.

This isn’t the first time we’ve left Brooklyn. A year after Bunky was born we moved in with my dad in New Jersey to regroup. As hard as it was for us to leave back then, we knew that we were coming back. But this time, we’re not.

Goodbye beloved Vanderbilt Playground where all our monkey bar dreams began

Goodbye beloved Vanderbilt Playground where all our monkey bar dreams began…

I’m starting to feel a sense of urgency and panic, as if I somehow have to squeeze in all the  things I haven’t done yet or recently, before we go. I’m feeling guilty, too, for not taking full advantage of living alongside Manhattan, and for neglecting the wonders Brooklyn has to offer beyond my neighborhood.

Concerts in the park with kids, not all it's cracked up to be.

Concerts in the park with kids, not all it’s cracked up to be. But still, I’ll miss you Prospect Park.

I can hear the clock ticking. Time is running out. Our apartment is in contract (holy crap!) and we haven’t yet found a new place to live (cue hyperventilation here). There are so many logistics to work out when it comes to moving a family – finding doctors, registering for school, sniffing out gluten free grocery stores, seeking out playgrounds, pools, parks, and of course, new friends.

[Pausing here to breath inside a paper bag.]

It will all “work out” as my husband and my brain keeps telling me, but I’m person who shrinks with fear at change, who shudders at novelty, to whom the term limbo is not merely a game to avoid at parties, but a place I try never to visit. Yet here I am LIVING INSIDE IT.

Which is probably good for me, right? To venture outside my comfort zone, to be uncomfortable. Because growth hurts. Kids know this, as their bodies expand at alarming rates, but adults often forget. I’m holding on so tightly right now to everything that I think I need, when maybe what I need to do is simply let go, and see what happens.

Last full day of K. Endings are hard on me, but this kid is psyched for school to be over.

Last full day of K. Endings are hard on me, but this kid is psyched for school to be over.

Recently, I read this wonderful post over at The Gift of Writing about how to maintain positive change, and when she referenced her one word for the year, I realized, with great embarrassment, that I completely forgot about my word for 2014, which was open.

As in, opening up. To possibilities, wonder, vulnerability, presence, heartache, joy. And change.

bunky sprinkler

I feel like the message is clear. I need to stop worrying, struggling, fighting with the invisible demons that perch on my shoulder and whisper sly lies in my ear about how this move is a huge mistake, and that we’d better to stay put, not move at all, because staying perfectly still keeps you safe.

bunky riding bike 2013

Which is one of the biggest lies you can tell yourself.

Leaving Brooklyn is an end, but I’ll keep reminding myself that it’s also a beginning.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress/pilgrimage, but if I go dark for a little while this summer you’ll know why. Until then, please share any moving moving stories you have! (No pressure, but happy endings preferred, ha.) 

 

Gluten Free Product Review Round-up

Earlier this month we spent our anniversary family-style at our country house upstate, and unlike the last trip (Easter weekend began with sun AND ended with snow!) this was summery without a spec of precipitation. It was filled with fun outdoor activities like lake swimming, sand castle building, marshmallow roasting, salamander catching (and releasing), and of course eating.

kids at lake

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

Red salamanders at the house and lots of green ones at the lake.

The eating part is surprisingly easy since the gluten free section at the local Peck’s grocery store is AWESOME! Seriously, it’s better than our grocery in Brooklyn. This makes our trips a lot easier knowing we can pick up a complete stash of Udi’s products, plus cookies, crackers, cake mixes, and more instead of packing our usual fridge/freezer/pantry arsenal.

I found a couple of new items that my family loved and I want to share here. I rarely do product reviews, but I should do more because there’s nothing worse than spending a zillion dollars on a dry meh GF cookie or a weird rubbery wrap.

scary face

Am I right?! (Gotta love Photo Booth.)

Have I mentioned how sad I am about gluten free bread lately? [sidebar alert] As much as I love Udi’s and am eternally grateful for their brand, I can’t handle how crumbly and hole-y the bread can be. It’s gotten to the point where I feel bad about giving it to my kids, especially Little Guy who is particularly sensitive to stale tasting bread. Maybe poor Bunky is used to it after all these years. Sigh.

Recently we tried Glutino White Bread, and it is SOFT, seriously insanely soft. You don’t even have to toast it! Less healthy than the whole grain Udi’s, sure, but you know, sometimes you need to be able to chew your sandwich without gagging.

Glutino_Bread_White_Sandwich-250x250

So, that was sort of an unofficial review, and now for the rest from our upstate stash…

Udi’s Gluten Free Flour Tortilla Wraps 

After years of eating quesadillas (practically a food group around here) on stiff yellow circles also known as store bought corn tortillas, I discovered these beauties.

The bread might not always be awesome, but these wraps totally are!

They are enormous and soft GF flour tortillas (they also sell smaller ones). Oh, Udi’s, I know I just bad talked your bread, but you nailed these. I used them for our regular shredded cheddar quesadillas, but also for a sweet breakfast tortilla (!) which tasted like a thick crepe, using our new favorite White Chocolate Peanut Butter and sliced banana. OMG! Unfortunately, I haven’t found these in Brooklyn yet (!) but the next time we go upstate, I’m stocking up.

Even a paper plate can't cheapen the experience.

Even a paper plate can’t cheapen the experience.

Next up…

Maple Grove Farms Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix

maple grove farms gf mix

Speaking of breakfast, have you tried this mix? If not, you should give it a try because it’s awesome. Plus, there’s NO added sugar, which is not necessarily true for other mixes (Bisquick, I’m talking to you). It’s super easy to make either pancakes or waffles and both have been successful for us. I used to like making my own homemade pancakes, and still do on occasion, but it’s also nice to have the convenience of a mix, especially when your kids wake you up before dawn.

Now, no trip to the country would be complete without copious amounts of Haagen Dazs ice cream. A moment of props to HD – want to know how many ingredients are in their traditional vanilla? FIVE. Cream, sugar, skim milk, egg yolks, and vanilla extract. Nothing fake, no “natural flavor” scams, nothing. Just real food.

Normally we eat it in a bowl because GF cones are not always easy to come by… except upstate where they sell these awesome ones:

Joy Gluten Free Sugar Cones

Isn't my cone model adorable?!

Isn’t my cone model adorable?!

These GF sugar cones are really tasty! They also make gluten free cake cones, by the way. One day we’ll give those a try. In the meantime, the sugar cones are rad. We all really enjoyed eating them all filled up with drippy vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The only caveat is that they leak at the bottom, but you can use your finger as a stopper, ha, or better yet melt some chocolate down there. Oh, yeah.

bunky and cone

Eating outside makes ice cream taste even better, don’t you think?

Everything outside is better in the summer. Salamander catching included.

kids and salamander

Have you had any fantastic gluten free finds lately? If so, bring it on in comments. I can always use some new ideas. And let me know if you try any of my suggestions. We GFers have to stick together, you know?

 

Month of Milestones

June is a full month for me, in many ways. For starters, my birthday is the 28th, and while I’ve never been a crazy birthday celebrating kind of person, each passing year feels heavy, fraught with a dueling sense of growth and loss. This sensation has grown more fierce as I approach the milestone of 40 (this coming year will be the last of my 30s). Aging kinda sucks. And yet, not entirely. I feel smarter, stronger (well, maybe not my abs), and more clear-sighted about what I want for myself than I ever did before, but there is something hard to accept about the loss of my youth.

Speaking of lost youth (joke! sort of), this month is also my wedding anniversary. Two of them. June 7 (Brooklyn courthouse) and June 11 (the gorgeous Virgin Islands), and I just realized as I’m writing this, that those dates, 7/11 mirror Little Guy’s birthday, 11/7/11. How perfect.

Flying in a little plane (yikes) to the island of Tortola.

Flying on a little plane to the island of Tortola. (The little plane part is why my man looks a bit green.)

My husband and I have been married for ten years now, TEN YEARS! How did this happen? It kind of crept up on us. Years ago, when we were newly married and, frankly, a bit stupid, we thought we’d return to the tropical island where we had our intimate and insanely fantastic wedding. Which was here, like literally, on this beach:

Little Dix Bay (please, hold the puns), on the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Little Dix Bay (please, hold the puns), on the island of Tortola, British Virgin Islands.

Well, that didn’t happen. Instead we went out to an early bird dinner (cause that’s how we roll), got a little drunk on pink champagne, and then went out for milkshakes to sober up before coming home by 7:45. Hey, what can I say, it was a school night.

Regardless, making it ten years is no easy feat, especially since six of those years were post-kids. I don’t talk much about my husband on this blog, for privacy reasons, mainly his since I clearly have no problem talking about myself, but suffice it to say, being married is CRAZY hard/good/bad/fun/horrible/fantastic/tedious/magical. We’ve been through a lot together, the superficial stuff like the second half of our 20s, and the big life changing rock your world stuff like death and babies, and yet somehow we keep on keeping on.

My baby bump with Bunky. Little Guy never got such tender pics. Sorry LG!

My baby bump with Bunky. Little Guy never got such tender pics. Sorry LG!

Speaking of death, that’s my other June milestone. My mom died on June 21, 2007 on Summer Solstice, which makes this year my seventh without her (physically) in my world. Losing a beloved parent is not something you get over. Ever. The whole time heals concept is pretty much bullshit. Time smooths out, time stretches, time passes, but the pain and loss remain. Of course, the turmoil I felt that first year does not even compare to how I feel now, BUT, there are these gut wrenching moments when something happens in my life, often having to do with my kids, and the person I’d like to share it with, confide in, or call for advice is dead.

As much as I miss her presence in my life, I’m grateful for our close relationship, and her enduring love. I think of her daily, and often, she inspires both my writing and my mothering. If only Little Guy could have crawled onto her lap and given her one of his sweeter than chocolate kisses, or if she could have seen Bunky’s newborn face which mirrored my own. But nope. As the Rolling Stones once said, and still say (gotta love their endurance), you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. And I’ve got these guys:

get what you need

Life is full of brutal moments of loss, tempered only by beautiful moments of joy. Sometimes they are all mixed up together, sort of like the way my laundry looks after I yank it out of the overstuffed dryer. Pant legs braided together with towels, socks hiding in the corners of the sheets, my daughter’s sleeves tangled with mine. You don’t get one without the other, so as hard as this month can be for me – my birthday just a week after my mom’s death, all coming in on the heels of my wedding anniversary – I no longer dread its approach, and instead I almost look forward to the rockiness of it, the messiness of it, because that is life.

My anniversary bouquet, picked by my daughter and husband.

My anniversary bouquet, picked by my daughter and husband.

* I had meant for this post to also include stories about our recent trip upstate, as well as gluten free product reviews, in addition to end-of-the-school-year angst (mine, not Bunky’s), and also about some big changes on my home front, and possibly blog front, but clearly that would have been a monster of a post, so tune in soon for all of this and more.

** Thanks, as always, for reading. If you have any milestone months, please let me know what they are and how you muscle through them.

Gluten Free Overnight Oats

You know you have no life when the first thing you say to people – as in, any person, your friends, babysitter, your dad’s girlfriend, strangers on the street: “Do you like oatmeal?” And when they stare at your sort of blankly and nod or shake their heads, you blurt out the entire recipe for overnight oats with an excitement that is not infectious.

At least I don’t show them a picture.

overnight oats w spoon

But this is my platform, ha, in which to spout my love and devotion to whatever I want, and right now that thing is OVERNIGHT OATS because seriously, they are that good.

Now, don’t judge this fab breakfast by my feeble photography. The best thing about this is that you don’t have to cook it. Seriously! This is especially convenient on school mornings when I’m rushing to make Bunky lunch and Little Guy breakfast, while chugging my coffee so my eyeballs don’t fall out of my head. All I have to do is take it out of the fridge and warm it up in the microwave for 30 seconds (optional step), and then bam, breakfast is served.

Despite the rawness of this recipe, the oats are soft and chewy, not raw-tasting at all (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I used whole milk the first few times because that’s what we had and they were SUPER creamy and delightful. Then I tried them with a lower fat and the difference was obvious. Still good, though.

I was inspired by these fantastic recipes, my absolute favorite being the almond butter one, sans cocoa powder (I know, weird) and I’ve since made my own version. It’s a mouthful (no pun intended) but I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it, so…

Gluten Free Vanilla Maple Almond Butter Oats

*Adapted from My Whole Food Life’s, Almond Butter Chocolate Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup gluten free oats (I use regular but you can use steel cut for more texture)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tsps maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice (I use 2% cow’s milk)*
  • 1 tsp flax meal (optional)
Isn't the lighting just lovely?

Isn’t the lighting just lovely?

Instructions:

1. Throw everything in a jar or thermos. Shake and put in fridge overnight.

2. Take out in morning and warm up if you want, and enjoy!

* add more milk or a splash of water for a slightly thinner oatmeal

A lovely pic taken alongside a dying bonsai tree.

Overnight oats beside an odd looking bonsai tree from Ikea.

This breakfast has really saved me because I haven’t been eating much of anything in the mornings, besides scraps from Bunky’s lunch. It’s sad because I used to love breakfast, and well, I still do, but I have no time or energy to make myself something healthy and filling. I used to be a hearty cereal girl, but I feel like the gluten free cereal options are super lame. Sure, there are organic circles and flakes, and a bunch of great mainstream sugary kinds (hello, Cinnamon Chex, which is like crack to my kids), but where is my hearty crunchy, granola-y, clustery cereal?! No where that I can find. Sigh. I don’t mind making regular oatmeal, but it takes time and messes up a pot.

But this overnight business? Genius! I don’t have to cook, it takes about 2 minutes at night which is key during crazy chaotic pre-bedtime lunacy, and it’s ready to go in the morning. It fills me up, it’s healthy, and YUM.

All I need is for these two to get a bit older and they can make it and serve it to me. Score.

kid waiter and chef

P.S. This is my 101st post! I didn’t do any fancy shenanigans for the 100th because, um, I forgot, but I’m pretty pleased with myself to have hit this milestone even though most bloggers seem to do it in one year (or less) rather than three, but whatev. I have two kids and half a brain. So, I consider this quite a feat.

Thank you to all my readers, new and old, sporadic and regular, for tuning in to my rantings, ravings, and recipes.

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

gf friday badge

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday Cake

We’re on. It’s cake time.

Finally! The post you’ve been waiting for. The one I neglected in order to write this and this. Ah, relief. No more deep thoughts (for now).

So. Roll up your sleeves, because it’s going to get messy. And time consuming. And kind of pricey. Also, seriously unhealthy. It’s time for…

gf rainbow cake special

Your hands will get dirty, or, at the very least, dyed a vivid pink hue not found in nature. If my daughter could dye all of her food this color, she totally would:

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

Upper left corner. The best color ever.

The seed for a rainbow layer cake began over a year ago when I saw this gorgeous concoction on April Peveteaux’s fab site, Gluten Is My Bitch. I had NO idea such a thing existed, but apparently it was big on Pinterest back then. I was intrigued, but scared. Seemed like a LOT of work. So I stuck with a simple (ish) but decadent double chocolate cake for Bunky’s 5th birthday party. It was gluten, nut, egg free, and AWESOME.

fifth gluten free bday cake

But this year I was ready. A kick-ass rainbow cake seemed a perfect match for Bunky’s art-themed party and my rainbow loving girl.

Gluten Free Rainbow Birthday (or any day) Cake

What You Need:

  • 3 boxes of gluten free cake mix (I used Cherrybrook Farms Yellow Cake mix) – plus whatever mix-ins it requires: oil, eggs, etc.
  • 2-3 circular cake pans, springform is easier but not totally necessary, I used 10-inch but could use 8-inch for a smaller circular cake
  • approximately 6 containers* of Betty Crocker or Duncan Heinz vanilla frosting, or homemade if you prefer, or for dairy free try this recipe
  • AmeriColor Soft Gel Paste Food Color – I bought the junior kit on amazon, but you can really use whatever dye you’d like, but the gel color is REALLY vivid. Also, this brand is gluten AND nut free (and kosher), woo hoo!
  • parchment paper or nonstick spray or butter to grease pans (I used spray with our springform pans, but if you’re using regular cake pans I would suggest lining them with parchment AND greasing to make sure you can get those skinny cakes out)
  • help in the form of childcare, partner support, and/or sous chefs, maybe some wine
  • patience of a saint doesn’t hurt

* When it comes to buying tubs of frosting, you can get a combo of the Whipped Vanilla kind, which is great to spread over the finished and assembled cake stack. But for in between each layer, we suggest using Regular Vanilla because the Whipped texture might be too airy and squishy to go between. You don’t want the layers to collapse together. My sous chef husband pointed this out and he was totally right. Thanks honey.

Getting It Done:

1. Prepare cake pans by spraying and/or lining them. If you’re not using springforms, line with parchment and grease. If using springform, nonstick spray or butter liberally.

2. Preheat oven and then prepare the THREE box mixes as directed. I started with only two Cherrybrook Farm mixes (why I followed the gluten Betty Crocker recipe and not April’s is beyond me) and divided them up into 6 bowls, weighed them with my kitchen scale (yes, I’m an anal dork), dyed the crap out of them, before realizing it wasn’t enough to cover the bottom of my 10-inch cake pans. So, I had to send my husband out for another box. Do yourself a favor and buy three boxes upfront unless you get secret pleasure out of making your partner run extra errands. No judgement here.

3. Divide into 6 bowls (or how many layers you want). Like I said above, I used a kitchen scale because you want each layer to be the same size, but you could also just use measuring cups.

bday cake prep

4. Here’s the fun part: adding color! A little squeeze of gel goes a long way, so be warned. Bunky and I both loved the hot pink. Little Guy went nuts over the blue and green.

My adorable little baking assistant.

Behold my adorable little baking assistant.

bday cake prep bunky

5. Start the cooking process. I had six cake pans, but we cooked two at a time (in 3 separate sessions) because our oven cooks unevenly on the different racks. If you can squeeze in three, go for it. But use your discretion. My sous chef, aka Husband, did the dirty work here. He spread the batter in the pans and was in charge of the cooking, cooling, and releasing.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or at least a helpful husband.

Rainbow cakes take a village. Or a helpful husband.

We cooked ours for about 6-7 minutes (it’s a thin cake, remember) but our oven is like Hades hot, so again, you may want to check your cakes starting at 6 minutes but it could take a bit longer. Don’t overcook, though, because that takes away a bit of color.

And please make sure the cakes are FULLY cooled before releasing or (gently) prying them out. You don’t want to damage the goods.

bday cake cooling

Cooked cakes just chilling by the windowsill.

6. Now for assembly. Again, my sous chef was in charge here. He likes doing the detail work and I like when he does it. But the birthday girl was the cake designer, with very specific instructions as to the order of colors. She went against the whole ROY G BIV color scheme which I know made my (OCD) husband a bit nuts, but hey, it was her day.

bunky cake designer

Like I mentioned earlier, we used a combo of Whipped and Regular Vanilla frosting. Regular for between the layers, and Whipped for the outer layer (because it goes on smoother and faster).

Taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE tubs. Srsly.

This pic was taken before the final frost. My husband was out buying MORE. Srsly.

7. Then top that sucker with whatever you want – we went for an easy and crowd pleasing route: sprinkles.

bday sprinkles

But you could try this gorgeous insanity that I contemplated for about twenty seconds:

makdoodle rainbow cake

But seriously, sprinkles are a sure thing. Don’t make it harder than it has to be. Unless you want to.

Finished product, please excuse the candle indentations.

Finished product. Please ignore the candle indentations. Forgot to take a pic with them.

The cake was a HUGE success, and so was the very sweet art party. But let’s talk about the cake!

gluten free rainbow cake slice

Every kid devoured it. Even the one boy who told me ahead of time that he doesn’t like cake. I promised that I wouldn’t make him eat it. But when he saw it he gestured me over. “I’ll take a small piece,” he said. And then he ate the entire thing, crumbs included.

Cake anticipation!

Cake anticipation! Everyone is very excited.

My sweet 6 year old birthday girl. It was a wonderful party.

Our six year old birthday girl.

bunky eating cake

Little Guy inhaled his entire slice.

It was a great party.

Me and my girl. (And Little Guy’s legs.) It was a great party.

bunky artHappy Birthday to my dear girl, who loved decorating her butterfly wings surrounded by her friends. She is growing her own secret wings, and one day she will fly away from me, but not yet.

opening gifts

 

Shared on the fabulous Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday link up. Click the badge below for more awesome GF recipes and tidbits.

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