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 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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Trifecta of Celebrations

First up, a very heartfelt thank you to all who commented and offered support on my last post about my other writing life. Hopefully by outing myself as a fiction writer on this blog, I will keep up with my goals and not slack off. Fingers crossed.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

November was a big month for us as we got to celebrate a trifecta of festivities: Little Guy’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Chanukah. Rather than torture you with three individual posts, I’m lumping it all together.

First up, my birthday boy. I can’t believe this guy is TWO.


Yet, I totally can because he is talking up a storm and can’t stop running around and dive bombing family members (leading, unfortunately, with his head). He also loves taking off all his clothes – and the clothes of EVERY single one of Bunky’s dolls. It’s really cute until he pees on the couch.

Last year I made him pumpkin muffins because that seemed like a responsible and healthy thing to do for a one-year-old. But a lot changes in a year, let me tell you. The kid still loves pumpkin, but that gourd has nothing on chocolate.

little guy second birthday cake

Everyone LOVED this cake. Courtesy of Gluten Free on a Shoestring’s Perfect Chocolate Cake. It really is perfect. Dense and rich and yet not overbearing at all. A sure thing for my chocoholic family. The fall foliage sprinkles were my favorite part.

Double thumbs up is the highest praise in our house.

Double thumbs up is the highest praise in our house. Little Guy only had one hand free.

little guy birthday cake close up

How cute is this kid? He’s totally trying to share his cake with me.

Which leads me to these leaf shaped sugar cookies I made for Thanksgiving. A GF Shoestring blog recipe. I highly HIGHLY recommend. My kids couldn’t eat them fast enough. And neither could my husband. Um, or me.

cookies close up

I frosted some with royal icing (not pictured), but it was a mistake. I’ve since realized that royal icing is more about making pretty decorations with a piping bag (which I don’t have). However, while the iced cookies didn’t look as pretty as I had hoped, no one complained as they were too busy cramming cookies into their greedy little mouths.

There was also chocolate pretzel marshmallow bark, because why not.

chocolate pretzel marshmallow bark

I jazzed up last year’s fail proof peppermint pretzel bark recipe and added mini marshmallows toward the end after the chocolate was cool. YUM.

Ariel view anyone? (Sorry, can’t help myself, it’s just so pretty.)

Oh, the lighting at my dad's house is just perfect.

Now let’s talk about PIE. Last year I made a cheesecake for my husband, but this year he requested (um, begged) for an apple pie. His absolute hand’s down favorite dessert.

My husband is a pie man.

My husband is a pie man.

I obliged because that’s the kind of awesome wife I am. Not shockingly, I went with another tried and true GF Shoestring recipe. I love Nicole Hunn’s pie crust recipe and helpful video. It’s worth mentioning that it’s the ONLY pie crust I’ve ever made from scratch (gluten and GF), but still, why mess with a sure thing? Here is one perfect looking slice. Seconds later it was gone, I’m sure.

apple pie

One of the best parts about Thanksgiving (in my opinion) is eating (a lot of) pie for breakfast the next morning. Nothing tastes as good, and for me, that pie must be pumpkin. Absolutely. No exceptions.

pumpkin pieLast year I made the mistake of attempting a graham cracker crust on my pumpkin pie. VERY bad move. The crust basically burnt to a crisp during the hour plus baking. Don’t cry for me because I ate the ENTIRE interior anyhow with a spoon. It wasn’t pretty, but it was good.

So, I stuck with the same decadent yet simple recipe as last year, but opted to make a double batch of traditional pie crusts to use for both the apple and pumpkin pie. This year I ate the whole pie, basically by myself (since my husband and daughter don’t like pumpkin pie?!?) but this time with the crust. It was DREAMY. I got a little fat. But it was worth it.

Besides the desserts, the other best part of Thanksgiving this year was the ease of it. Everyone was so chill and happy. It was hilarious watching Little Guy try to keep up with his cousin (three months younger but way faster) as they ran circles in the house. Bunky had a blast playing with the “big cousins” who are all college graduates. There was an adorable (though ear drum shattering) jam session with an electric guitar, a broken violin, a piano, and a mechanical singing Santa.

There was very little talk or anxiety over FOOD. Our kids ate our stuff, the rest of us ate their GF offerings, and we all shared dessert. Couldn’t ask for better, really.

Next up, or rather, simultaneously up, Chanukah.

Oh, Chanukah why are you so long?

Oh, Chanukah why are you so long?

The first night or two was sweet. Candles, singing dreidel songs, opening presents. But then a few days in, things started to go south. My husband grumbled about it, muttering about how at least Christmas gets it all done in one day. At first I defended my holiday, insisting how great it was to get eight nights of festivities, until it wasn’t. The truth is, one gift a night can be kind of frustrating for a kid. At least on Christmas the meh gifts get pushed aside for the great ones, but on Chanukah some nights end up being only meh – which translates to horrendous amount of whining around my house.

All that said, the last second to last night picture is pretty sweet. Bunky loves her waitress costume.

last night of chanukahI am pretty relieved it’s over, though. Until next year.

Now that I’ve got all that out of my system, I leave you with an image that will hopefully be symbolic of the rest of the season: may we all kick up our feet in green high heel shoes and relax.

little guy heelsHope you all survived November and I wish you the best of luck during December’s shenanigans. If the going gets tough, just be glad you’re not trapped in a jar like this poor lady. (Totally random and unrelated aside, but I am strangely in love with this picture.)

princess in a jar

My family will be spending Christmas in our pajamas watching movies. The kids will get one gift each, IF they’re lucky. Greedy ungrateful little boogers.

Just kidding. Mostly.


I’m so happy to be part of Vegetarian Mamma’s Gluten Free Friday recipe link-up! Click the badge below for more great GF recipes.

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Spring is in the (Country) House + Ramps

We returned to our country house this past weekend to celebrate my husband’s birthday, which was on Monday. He and Bunky are just a week apart. My two (crazy) Tauruses. Stubborn as bulls, but loyal as anything. (Have you read Molly’s astrological post on her blog, Sprue Story? Hilarious and spot on.) Since opening up the house to renters via Home Away, we have been pleasantly surprised by how popular it has been. So popular that we have to take advantage of the open weekends. This was the perfect opportunity.

Sharing a rocker on the porch. So sweet until it wasn't.

Sharing a rocker on the porch.
So sweet until it wasn’t.

Spring is a little delayed in Sullivan County, especially up top of the winding gravel road that leads to our home. The small green leaves that had daintily dotted the tree lined highways grew more sparse the higher we ascended, similar to how the snow lay thicker in the winter, but the warm weather and cerulean blue skies couldn’t have been more perfect.

blue sky house

Side view of the house.
Isn’t that sky insane?

We didn’t make any plans beyond a trip to the farmer’s market, which is a lesson we learned in the fall, and instead made it our goal to enjoy some quality relaxation surrounded by nature. Too bad the kids and bugs had other ideas.

The kid part is obvious. I knew things wouldn’t be all zen with a spirited preschooler and a banshee screaming toddler – Little Guy’s latest trick when frustrated. But the bug thing threw my husband for a loop, perhaps because he is one sweet tasting dude. According to the bugs. (Hey, this is a family blog.) Fortunately the mornings and early afternoons were bug free, as it seems the bugs (unlike my kids) like to sleep in. So we had plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors. Fortunately there was cable TV, which we don’t have in Brooklyn, to take care of the buggy afternoons. Let’s just say Bunky and Little Guy got quite comfortable on the couch.

tv boy

Literally, first thing he did was go for the remote. I blame it on his sister.

I’m making it sound like we hid indoors, which is not entirely true. Just on Saturday during my husband’s “Project.” My husband likes projects. Loves them. Like, this country house? It’s a nesting doll of projects, dozens of them all squeezed inside his brain. This weekend’s birthday project was on a smaller scale (unlike the drainage ditch he built a few weeks ago). He wanted to create a picturesque spot for the fancy (read: pricey) fire pit he bought. Shockingly, he finished it in less than a day.

This is me talking to my husband, right now: “Honey, you were right. Okay?!” I’m not so great at admitting I’m wrong, but I told him I’d be thrilled to do so if in fact he actually finished his project on time. Which he did. And it looks pretty awesome.

fire pit rocks

Little Guy is REALLY into rocks.

Little Guy is REALLY into rocks.

family fire pit

The next day was the local farmer’s market (nearly an hour’s drive away) which was extra special because of the Ramps Festival. What are ramps, some of you may wonder? Well, if you’re a foodie you already know cause they are like the shit to talk about and cook with in early spring. But they aren’t really that fancy in person. They are wild leeks, or as wikipedia says, “an early spring vegetable with a garlic odor and onion flavor.”

Don’t get me wrong, they are GOOD. But before this weekend, I thought they were just another pretentious ingredient at hip Brooklyn eateries – which they may well be, but they are also growing in our backyard! Seriously! My husband got all Little House on the Prairie on us and dug some up with a shovel and presented them to me like a bouquet. Check out his food photography. It’s no joke.

ramps on deck

After chatting with the very nice woman at the farmer’s market whose small stand WAS the Ramps Festival, I had a good idea of how to prepare them. A little internet research confirmed what she advised, which was to keep it simple.

You can eat the leaves and the bulbs (once you cut off the tip of the root). But first it’s kind of important to make sure you’re actually eating ramps and not lilies of the valley, which they closely resemble and are POISONOUS. My husband was like, oh no these are definitely ramps. But I decided to do my own research, just in case. I found this great article which has a very thorough description (with photos) about what those other less edible plants look like, along with some recipe advice.

After reading it I felt pretty sure I wasn’t going to kill myself, but I kept sniffing the leaves and the bulbs, just in case. Fortunately the whole house smelled like an onion, which is a dead giveaway (no pun intended) since the bulbs of lilies of the valley have no offensive odor. Here is my own little ramp tutorial:


Wash your ramps in warm water and then cut the tip off the root. Similar to the green onions they resemble, there is a thin clear membrane over the stalk. Just peel it down. It should come off pretty easily. Chop those suckers up, but keep the white bulb pieces separate from the green leaves since they cook at different rates.


I sauteed mine in butter and olive oil. You could do one or the other, but this time being indecisive worked in my favor. Just start with the white bulbs first because they will take a bit longer to cook. Saute them for about a minute or so before adding the chopped green leaves. Stir and and cook together on medium low for another minute or so until wilted down.


I ate mine straight out of the bowl and they were warm, fragrant, and delicious. Way more subtle than onions, a bit sweeter than leeks. Even my husband who stays away from anything in the onion family stared longingly at my bowl because they smelled that good. He tried two small pieces and declared them amazing.

It wouldn’t have been hard to eat the entire bowl, but I didn’t want to get a ramp overload, so I forced myself to save half. The next day I made myself a ramptastic lunch by frying up two eggs and tossing it in a bowl with my leftover ramps and some basmati rice. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, and a dash of red pepper flakes and I was in ramp heaven. I would have taken a picture but I was too busy eating. And watching repeats of NCIS. Little Guy was napping and Bunky was out with her dad. Ah, bliss…

Other highlights of our trip included a sweetly serious discussion with Bunky about her dolls, Ariel and Sleeping Beauty, who she told me were getting married. Then she asked with a touch of concern, can two girls get married? And I was like YUP. She was very happy about this and told me all about their wedding cake.

lady loveThen there was LOTS of strawberry, vanilla, and cherry vanilla ice cream. We love Haagen Dazs, gluten free and natural. Our local supermarket even had gluten free wafer cones! Insane! We ate the entire package and Little Guy had his first cone. He had no problem with the licking part, but was a little confused about what to do with the cone. So I ate it for him. One of the benefits of being someone’s mom.

He prefers to drink his ice cream dregs from a bowl.

He prefers drinking his ice cream dregs from a bowl.

I also made my husband some of these delicious fudge brownie cookies (also found in our local market, so cool) and chocolate chex mix, his new favorite treat. Which is convenient because it’s SO easy. A recipe will come soon, though you probably know it already. I think we’re a little late to the chocolate covered Chex party.

Yes, that's a llama in the background.

Yes, that’s a llama.

Since our house is all booked up through June, we won’t be going again until July. Plenty of time for my husband to dream up some more projects.

Bunky Turns Five

bday 5Somehow, my baby is FIVE. It’s one of many parenting cliches that is actually true. Time flies. But that’s not the whole story. Time is different with kids.

At first, time seems to inch forward, slowly, painfully, a snail’s pace. Every day is a series of seemingly endless and mundane and totally necessary tasks: feeding, napping, changing diapers, crying (you and the baby). Some days feel so long you could swear they last way more than 24 hours. In the early days of new-baby-town, when you finally manage to crawl out of your hole, I mean home, and see other babies in the world, they seem so much bigger than your new squirmy worm. They can do so many more things than your baby. It seems that it will take ages for your baby to be that many months old, to do those sorts of big baby things. Then, in a flash, you’re the one with the bigger baby. Then, another flash, and your baby is no longer a baby to anyone but you.

baby b

Bunky’s still technically a baby here. I think.

Bunky’s 5th birthday party was, in a word, awesome. Days before the party, while I was running around like a crazy person, a close friend reminded me what a kid’s birthday should be about. I’m paraphrasing here, but here are her words of wisdom: “Kids want to be celebrated, have a little recognition, but mostly they want to run around with their friends.”

So. True. And that’s what happened at B’s birthday. Four of her girl pals from school came to our favorite carousel, some in princess attire, and they ran, jumped, danced, hoola hooped, and rode the carousel more times than I can count. They also ate some fantastic (if I may be so bold) gluten, egg, and nut free cake. But more on that in a bit.

Princess Bbday parachutefirst party picThe weather was PERFECT. No easy feat for an end of April birthday. This by far was the warmest and bluest skied day we’ve ever had. And thank goodness, since the carousel does NOT run in the rain, eeks.

bday carousel

Pure kid joy = Happy mama.

I knew from the moment Bunky had her first ride on the carousel that we were golden. The look on her face was ecstatic, so purely beautifully happy, that it took my breath away. This is the kid who cried and hid in my arms during her disastrous 2nd birthday party (our mistake, huge party for a shy kid). This is the kid who would not play at her preschool at age 3.5, who sat on a chair and cried with her doll after we dropped her off (heart-freaking-breaking). That same girl has been playing all year long. She has played and danced her way from four to five. I can’t explain how grateful I am that her birthday was so sweetly perfect for her.

B and me

Our one pic together.

Though a bumpy start for Little Guy, he perked up with bubbles, a chocolate chocolate cupcake (which he inhaled) and quality time with my dad, also known as Greedles.

LG and G bubbles

LG and G

Now for the cake. I may have mentioned I was stressing out a wee bit over the cake. Well, all for naught because it rocked! Who needs eggs, seriously?! Or gluten, or nuts?! Not us!

After the party I said to my husband, “oh no, I was so busy taking pictures of the kids I didn’t take any pictures of the food,” and he was like, um, duh, that’s a good thing. Which of course it was. But that didn’t stop me from a photo shoot the next day with this little beauty.

cupcakeAnd this pre party shot. I made the cake, my husband decorated. Good team work, I think.

bday cakeAs for all my recipe experimenting, let me just give some unsolicited advice for anyone new to egg free baking: when in doubt, use a recipe specifically written for egg free baking. I got lots of great advice from people about replacing eggs – use applesauce and baking powder, sub in a can of pumpkin, etc. But in the end I decided on buying this Ener-G egg replacer. It worked great in the Cybele Pascal’s eggless (and allergy free) recipe for Chocolate Layer Cake. Which is what you see in the above picture.

Since baking is a science, you can’t always just wing it and sub in some egg replacer for two eggs, which is what I tried with a usually successful Annalisse Roberts chocolate cake recipe. The poor cupcakes puffed up like crazy in the oven and then collapsed and become almost hollow inside. Don’t get me wrong, anything with Betty Crocker chocolate frosting (gluten, egg, and nut free!) on top tastes good – but I wanted something better for my girl’s birthday. Here’s a side by side pic of the two cupcakes. The successful Cybele version on the left, the hollow puffer on the right.

cupcake no eggs

Another great part about Cybele’s recipe is that since it’s for a layer cake, it made enough batter for 12 cupcakes and a single layer of chocolate cake. Nice.

Bunky picked out red sugar roses and we topped the kids’ cupcakes with them and offered the puffier cupcakes to adults. Everyone was welcome to enjoy cake. Let’s just say the minimal leftovers didn’t last long at home, thus the lone rose photo shoot.

IMG_2364I have to say, unlike the heavy build up to Bunky’s 4th birthday – which made sense since it was our first anniversary of B’s celiac diagnosis – this year felt lighter. My biggest concern was nailing an egg free cake. Kind of cool, since that means, in many ways, being gluten free is simply part of our lives.

Now that the party’s over, the fact that I have a five year old is starting to sink in… Crazy!

Last but not least, I want to thank all of you for supporting my birthday crisis and really, just for reading my blog. It’s pretty awesome to realize that people I’ve never met, but feel like I *know,* are rooting for my cake baking attempts and hoping for the best for my girl.

As a parting image, I’ll leave you with Bunky and one of her favorite birthday gifts. Sometimes a big girl just wants something soft to cuddle.bday duck

The Imperfect Art of Imitation

After Bunky’s diagnosis, once we plied her back to health with outrageous amounts of gluten free chicken fingers and banana bread, one of my goals was to help her feel like a normal kid again. No easy feat because every social situation, every family event, is almost always centered on food – and nothing proved more difficult than birthday parties.

flickr credit, Aih

Looks all innocent and pretty, doesn’t it?
flickr credit, Aih

I used to dread bringing Bunky to birthday parties even before celiac because she HATED them. She was terrified of crowds and burst into tears at the first bars of the Happy Birthday song. We made a monstrous error of judgment and had a party for her when she turned two. In a word: disaster. She was fine when it was just a few people, but once the crowd grew she totally freaked.

Here she is before the guests arrived.

Here she is before the guests arrived.


And after.

But the real issue was friend birthday parties, which seemed to pour in after her diagnosis especially when she started preschool. After a few big fails (like the frosted rice krispie treat I packed for a school celebration instead of a cupcake) I realized something pretty obvious: B wanted to be like her friends, which meant she wanted her GF treats to look just like the G ones.

Just try imitating this. flickr credit, clevercupcakes

Try imitating something like this. 
flickr credit, clevercupcakes

I leapt at the chance to right this wrong for my girl. I was determined to make her treats look the same. It couldn’t be too hard, right? Especially for the school parties which were almost always cupcakes. Just get the cake and frosting type from the parent and bake my own version. No problem. Or so it seemed…

My first official attempt at imitation was a double chocolate cupcake with one m+m on top. Bunky was thrilled, as chocolate and m+m’s are her favorite things in the world.

flickr credit, jonathanb1989

My kid’s version of heaven. A sea of m+m’s.
flickr credit, jonathanb1989

I nailed it. Even the teacher was flustered by how remarkably identical mine looked next to the G version. The reality of how close we could have come to a gluten mistake went over my head because I was so thrilled.

Too thrilled. I got a little cocky.

There was just one small problem. People are fickle, especially kids, when it comes to birthday cake. They change their minds. A lot. There was the yellow icing that ended up being green. The vanilla cake that was chocolate. You get the idea.

Don’t get me started on the after school parties with professional bakery cakes shaped like princesses and fairies, decorated with sugar spun flowers and fancy piping along the edges.

Whoa. Bunky would kill for this credit, volantra

Bunky would kill for this cake.
flickr credit, volantra

You would think I’d have caught on by now, that I was attempting the impossible, but no.

The answer found me, finally, at a friend’s fourth birthday party this fall. A whole year after my initial promise to Bunky. This friend’s mom happens to be gluten intolerant and was such a tremendous help and support to me when B was diagnosed. She offered to bring cupcakes from a fantastic bakery, which I accepted, but I also asked her for the cake info so I could attempt a copycat for Bunky.

Purple princess cake. Whoa. All I could do was imitate the yellow cake and make some pretty purple frosting. That would have to be enough.

For some reason, though, I became obsessed with this cake. My mind went in circles about the princess theme, and how or if I could possibly make my slab of cake look special. Then the morning of the party, I had a sudden realization. It wasn’t possible.

My princess cake would not look like the birthday girl’s princess cake. This understanding stung. After all, I had been trying for a year to perfect my imitations, but I also felt something that surprised me: a sense of relief. I could let go of trying for perfection that was clearly unattainable.

The next day when we arrived at the party, the first thing I heard was another family oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous princess cake. I steeled myself, shaking off the cringe that automatically shot onto my face, and walked over to say hello. As I approached the table with the cake I couldn’t believe my eyes. It wasn’t purple at all, but pink. Pink!

The mom, who did absolutely everything to make sure all the snack food was safe for my girl, said her daughter changed her mind at the last minute. She was sorry she didn’t tell me. I brushed it aside, no problem, it’s okay. And it was, obviously! But my insides quaked as I took in Bunky’s expression. She asked me in a quiet voice why the cake wasn’t purple. I kept my tone neutral when I answered. The moment passed and the party was wonderful, filled with lots of friends, a cool princess art project that Bunky loved, then pizza, Udi’s for my girl, and cake. There was an issue with finding a gluten free fork of all things (note to self, bring flatwear) but Bunky ate her entire, rather large, purple frosted square and the cupcake my friend brought her. Around her all the other kids dove into their pink squares. I saw B watching, but the other kids were watching her too. Not everyone had two desserts.

She was happy. It was okay. I know she noticed the cake, though, because later I heard her describing it in vivid detail to her dad. How pretty it was. How pink.

But now I finally got it. This birthday party opened my eyes to what seems so obvious. No matter how hard I try to make my girl’s cake look the same, I can’t. No matter how much Bunky wants to be the same as her friends, she can’t. Because she’s different.

I’m going to have to explain this to her sometime soon. I will tell her our cupcake may not look exactly like the gluten one, but that’s okay.

Because it’s going to taste awesome.

flickr credit, Theresa Thompson

flickr credit, Theresa Thompson