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.

gf friday badge

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

Birthday Party Countdown = Insanity

Remember a month ago I mentioned a fun family visit to the doctor’s office where we all got sticks jammed down our throats? It’s called a Strep Test but really it’s more like medieval torture. Turned out Bunky was the only one who had strep, poor kid, and somehow she has it AGAIN. Evil preschool germs.

Well, this time we skipped the family stick up, but poor B was freaking out all morning crying, “No stick, tell them no stick!” which I totally understand. That shit is messed up. My husband tried to reason with her, saying maybe they wouldn’t need to do the test, which I thought was false advertising, but it kept her quite (for about fifteen seconds) so I didn’t argue. But luck was on our side because we met with a new nurse practitioner who I heard was awesome, and turns out the rumors were true because after examining my poor sick kid she agreed NO STICK. I call it an early birthday present because Bunky’s turning 5 in less than a week.

Holy Crap! Her birthday is April 28 and we’re having a teeny weenie party this coming Saturday and now I have a sick kid missing two days of school, so needless to say I’m freaking out. Just a little. I have a shit ton to do in order not to have a complete fail (see Easter) so I’m hoping my baby sitter doesn’t cancel because otherwise no one is getting any allergy free cake.  Which would be sad, really, since it is a birthday party.

Not only am I baking a gluten free cake (duh) but also a nut free and egg free one, because one of Bunky’s best girlfriends from school has nut and egg allergies. [Unfortunately, due to B’s need for a small crowd and space constraints, we could only invite 5 kids, so we ended up going with only girls to be “fair” even though I love the boys in her class.] The egg free part feels tricky to me because I’m not used to it, but the chocolate thing is complicated, too, since much of it is often made in facilities with nuts. I am taking this task very seriously since I obviously don’t want anyone having a life threatening allergic attack on my watch.

So this cake is out.

Polka Dot cakeBut man, isn’t it so pretty? I have to admit, after spotting this sucker on Pinterest, I considered making it even though I don’t have a cake pop pan (that’s how they made the polka dots). I figured I could use a mini muffin tin, but then I came to my senses.

In the end, Bunky told me what kind of cupcake she wanted – chocolate on chocolate – not surprising as she is a total chocoholic. Then out of nowhere she told me she wanted roses on top. Sure, cool, no problem, I said. My husband looked impressed – as if I was going to bust out a cake decorator and pipe those suckers on top. No way! It’s called sugar roses, dude, and I planned on finding them at a grocery store until we stopped by a Michael’s craft store near my dad’s house in New Jersey. They had all kinds of fancy cupcake decorations, including pink daisies and purple princess crowns, but Bunky held strong to her red rose dream. Gluten free, yeah, but filled with all kinds of chemicals and color dye. No beaver butt, though.

So the chocolate cake is currently my wild card. All my tried and true gluten free chocolate cake recipes call for at least 3 eggs which seems a bit much in terms of using egg replacer. When I did a search online for gluten and egg free (and nut free, but if I use Better Batter flour and safe chocolate I should be okay), almost every recipe also happened to be dairy free, which kind of annoyed me. No offense to the DF-ers out there, but my kid and her friend can actually eat dairy, so I want to include butter and milk in my cake if I can. I mean, my kid loves butter. She’d eat a stick if I let her. Gross, but true.

I found a few recipes that look promising – one, two, three to be exact – but if you know me, you know I don’t like to waste time (because I have no time) so I’m kind of hesitant to try out someone’s random cake recipe without some serious recommendations. In the end I’m going with either a Cybele Pascal recipe (and use regular milk instead of rice, but no butter, sigh) or Annalise Roberts‘ Chocolate Fudge cake (using egg replacer for 2 eggs, but still no butter!!) that came highly recommended. If anyone has tried either of these ladies’ cakes and wants to chime in, PLEASE DO.

I know in the end I could just go with a Cherrybrook Kitchens allergy free mix, but to be honest, while I’m grateful to have that option in a pinch (and may end up making a batch of those for the adults, ha) it just doesn’t taste that great. I think when you take out EVERYTHING potentially allergenic and throw it into a box mix, you can’t expect much. I want my kid’s birthday cupcakes to be awesome. I want her to eat the ENTIRE THING and not just lick off the cheap-o Betty Crocker frosting (yeah, I thought about making my own but then came to my senses, again).

Wish me luck. I only have 4 more days left…