Showing posts with label Birthday cakes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Birthday cakes. Show all posts

Monday, September 3, 2012

90 is the new 90

My mother turned 90 yesterday, and she is finally starting to look close to her age. It's something of a shock to both her and us, who have assumed her youthfulness would go on forever.

This year has been harsh on her. Tough on all of us.

Last year at 89?

Mom & me on her 89th birthday last year
Still going strong. We drove out to Coney Island to visit with friends, made a full day of it, took Grandma out to dinner at a diner near her NYC home when we got back to Manhattan.

But this year?

Wheelchair bound now, post broken-hip fall; sleeping much of the time (her heart not pumping efficiently enough to give her a full day's energy). Living in a nursing home. Still bruised from her latest fall.

Danny and the boys and I came out from the city by train (the car is still in the shop) and my Uncle Walter - my mother's 85 year-old "baby brother" - picked us up and drove us to the nursing home which is just a mile from his house.

We gathered in one of the small lounges, just off the dining room, where there was a table, sofa, chairs.
Uncle Walter & Mom
Three generations
Walter brought flowers. We brought a cake (chocolate - is there any other kind?) and candles - nine, one for each decade.


We visited for a while, ate cake, interspersed hugs and kisses with stories. Mom napped in her chair, on and off throughout the proceedings.

Birthday kisses from Jake

I gave her a bracelet, a simple string of blue-grey pearls on an elastic cord. Something easy to wear, not too valuable, as things of value are not possible to keep in a nursing home (the sad truth).

I had no idea they would be the exact same shade as the shirt she was wearing today, a bit of serendipity, something cheerful to cut into the sadness that was running a deep vein throughout the afternoon.

Walt told winding stories of their childhood together. Tales of their parents, and the candy store they ran together; of his father's earlier work as a waiter, filling in some details I had not heard before.

(The children were bored. They played video games. Hopefully, someday they will have interest in  the currently unimaginable past.)

I hadn't realized Grandpa Joe had worked in high-class joints like the Waldorf, and been instrumental in founding the waiters union, NYC Local 1.

They talked about their grandfather, their father's father, remembered only as Zayde (Yiddish for grandfather), first name obliterated by time. Walt remembered how harsh and bristly his beard was, like razor blades, and how his father had inherited that same rough stuff.

"You have a beard like none other I have ever seen!" declared his barber when Grandpa Joe went in for his twice monthly fancy shaves, "It's tough as nails!"

Walt doesn't have this. Did it die out with my grandfather's generation, or is a steel wool beard in store for my boys when, in a few years, they sprout facial hair?

(This is why I feel it so important to gather these stories now, while those who lived them first hand are still among us and remembering. That world has long faded away, and yet my children walk into the future carrying the genes of their ancestors with their every step. these are their stories too, even if they don't know it yet.)

We took leave of Mom as dinner was being served, handed out the remains of the cake to the folks at her table.  She looked so sad, sitting there in her wheelchair, dozing off, waiting to be served.

I had to work hard to walk away without spilling over into sobs, remembering my father's bountiful 90th birthday celebration just five years ago, with abundant food, family and friends gathered 'round; not this paltry, anemic thing we had just done, too slight to be called a party.

Mom with birthday flowers and cake
Mom, I know this is not how you wanted it to be, but you made it to 90.

And 90 is still 90, a big deal. Nine decades.

And I know you don't think so, are distressed by how much you now look like "an old woman" but you are still so beautiful, so beautiful to us all.

Happy Birthday Mom! We love you!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Last Day of Nine

Today was the boys' last day of being nine.

(Happy and sad, all at the same time, tumbling away inside of me: missing their little-boy-ness gone away forever now; excited about their growing, unfolding, becoming the big boys and young men they will be)

We had their birthday party today, a jam-packed affair: movie, pizza (burger for Jake) and then a hands-on tour of our local Rita's where the manager, Sandie, has become a friend. The boys made watermelon ice and got to taste a sample of their handiwork, yum!

Ethan and friends at lunch
Making ices at Rita's

And, oh, the cakes! Once again I was up nearly all night making the cakes. (Probably my last year for this too.)

Jake 2012 cake: Batman again!
Ethan 2012 cake: KNICKS!

That's it for today, folks, just a few pictures to share.

Ethan is FINALLY asleep (his plan to stay awake until midnight so as to usher in the first moment of 10 has failed).

Now to prepare for tomorrow, their ACTUAL birthday. We'll celebrate with a trip to Long Island to see their Grandma (my mom) and then back into the city for dinner at...  Clyde Frasier's Wine and Dine. And yes, there is a basketball court INSIDE the restaurant.

(Do I know what makes my boys happy or what?)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Birthday Cakes & Flying Balloons!

For Wordless Wednesday? Scenes from the boys' 9th birthday party this past weekend.

Yes, I make "The Cakes" again this year. Jake changed his mind, no Flying Pig. I was a little disappointed and a little relieved.

Wanna see them? Good! Here they are:

Gogos for Ethan and Basketball for Jake
Yep, completely round (GF/CF) Basketball cake
We added some REAL Gogos onto the cake, because more = better, ya know.

And Jacob? Loves to set balloons free. Did when he was three. Still does at nine.
Jacob happy = Joy
Happy, happy, happy nine year old boys.

I’m linking up to Wordless / Wordful Wednesdays all OVER the place... at Angry Julie Monday... at 5 Minutes for Mom... at live and love...out loud... at Dagmar*s momsense... at Parenting by Dummies.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

SOC Sunday: Whew!

THANK GOODNESS it's time for a Stream of Consciousness Sunday post, because I just don't think I have a "real" post in me. And the typos in these things? Part of the charm. Wheeee, letting 'er rip.....


Hey it's August tomorrow. AUGUST!!!!  That means I'm done! Slapping this post up on my blog means I got through NaBloPoMo - a whole month of posting every day. WHEW!

Proof that  I survived my boys' 9th birthday party yesterday exists here: I lived to write this post today.  It has been an insane, whirlwind week. And I have no idea how I am going to be ready to leave on Wednesday afternoon to be away for 5 days. I've never left me kids for 5 days, not even once. but they are 9, nine, NINe! (amazing how they are getting older while I have'nt aged at all)

I will surely forget to pack underwear or something equally important, but I am going to a city after all, not the ends of the earth, so nothing is going to kill me (I hope). I am excited and also daunted. Not by the conference (totally un-anxious about that) but by all the prep.

Yes, I made amazing birthday cakes even though one of them had a slight disaster on the way to the party (note to self: round cake + travel = oops!) and picture proof will show up soon.  Today we go to a friend's place up in the Bronx where there is a pool.

I  have always had the boys parties on Sunday before, tihs is the first Saturday, so since they were 4 and in camp / summer school I was always able to say goodbye and then clean up & rest / recuperate in peace the day after. I so do NOt have the energy to entertain boys - so plopping them in a pool and me beside it and in it occasionally. a godsend *(Thakns. Lori)*

The fact that I have one bathing suit that still fits. excellent. (Note to self: next time you lose weight do NOT give away all your "fat clothes" especially the bathing suits.)

OK, guess I gotta get out of my jammies now and get the family packed up and out the door!


Well, I just got a phone call telling me the pool day may be off - my friend's elderly mother is not feeling well, and she may have to take her to the hospital.  Oh, well, so it goes in Sandwich Generation life. Now to come up with a plan B...

New to SOCS?  It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump.  Want to try it?  Here are the rules…
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spell-checking. This is writing in the raw.
You can do it, too!  Click on the picture link and let's hear your 5 minutes of brilliance...

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

When Pigs Fly

It's that time of year again.

Counting down, getting close to my boys' birthday in late July.

Plans must be laid, preparations made.

Not the least of which is the cakes.

I make awesome birthday cakes, my one claim to domestic fame.

Think I'm exaggerating (as I have often proclaimed my complete disinterest and ineptitude at most things housewiverly)?


Jake's "Very Hungry Caterpillar" cake, 2009
Ethan's "Lapras" Pokemon cake, 2010
(Want to see them all? See this post HERE)

In years past, I have pretty much known what Jacob's current favorite characters were, his obsessions up front and obvious. I have asked the rhetorical question: "Jake do you want a (insert favorite character here) cake this year?" And he has said "Yes." And that's it. Case closed.

Ethan's choice has been obvious and easy some years. Others have required research and negotiation, a delicate balancing between his desire for elaborateness and my ability to make 2 cakes in one day & evening while managing to still get enough sleep to function at the party.

One Pokemon of his choosing: yes! An elaborate battle scene with multiple Pokemon and trainers? Not in this lifetime, kid.

But Ethan will communicate with me, we'll hash it out together, sometime over the next week or so. If Wilton has ever made a cake pan shaped even vaguely like what he wants, I'll head to E-bay to acquire. If not, I'll hit up the internet coloring pages to create a pattern.

For Jacob, on the other hand, this year is a bit of a mystery; his cake, a puzzle that needs to be solved.

You see, this year, he is paying attention. He has been talking about "Birthday Cake" for about a week now. Constantly. He REALLY wants to help me make it, and is very specific that it MUST be round.

For some years now, I have been a bit smugly pleased that my son is "less rigid" than most other kids on the spectrum. I figured he was just innately more easygoing, thanked my lucky starts about it, thought it was his inborn "happy-go-lucky" personality shining through. (Can you see the smack-down coming?)

Turns out? It was because he was mostly just oblivious! As he has "woken up" into the world, is processing so much more, really understanding what is going on around him in a much more profound way... he is getting REALLY OPINIONATED, and well, rigid about things.

Le sigh.

So I can't just make a reasonable suggestion, have him go: "yes" and just carry on with whatever I make his cake to be. He wants it HIS WAY.

Now, if he were better at communicating what he wants, this would not be be MUCH easier. But he's not. Autism is a communication disorder, see. I know this seems like such a little thing, barely a blip in the big scheme of things,

But I know if I don't get it right he will be miserable. If his cake is "just right" what he really wants? Happiness will ensue.

No pressure here folks, really.

Well last night at bedtime I got him in an expansive, expressive mood. When he started up with the "I want my birthday cake, Mom!" routine,  I actually got him to answer some questions about it.

What he appears to be telling me is that he wants: a ROUND cake with layers "a tall cake, Mom."

Also? Chocolate. "Brown, darker brown chocolate cake!" No doubts about that. Damn!

As I make two cakes every year for the party (Twins!) and not everyone likes or can eat chocolate, I have always made one chocolate and one vanilla or flavored vanilla (lemon/orange/strawberry).

Since Ethan is a chocolate fiend and believes that non-chocolate cakes are a disgrace to desert-hood and have no reason to exist, well, you can see that Ethan's cake has always been the chocolate one.

So now? I am going to have to make two chocolate cakes (one gluten free for Jake) AND some lemon-vanilla cupcakes for the non chocolate crowd.

But all that aside, back to Jacob's elaborate plans. If I've got this straight (and this is for sure what he told me tonight, whether it changes tomorrow remains to be seen), he wants this cake to have:

"Yellow frosting, mom. Yellow AND orange frosting."

"OK. And what kind of picture do you want on it, Jake?"

"A pig!" No hesitation there.

Really? A pig?

"Jake, you want... a... pig?"

"Yes, Mommy! A white pig, Mommy! With green eyes, Mommy!"

"OK, a white pig with green eyes.  Jake, you got it." 

I kiss him a final goodnight, climb down the ladder from his top bunk, and then hear a little voice in the dark:

"With wings, Mommy, a white pig with wings."

So this year, in late July, be prepared to see a white pig with green eyes, flying across a TALL birthday cake. (And then coming to a blog post near you, soon.)

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Today is my boys' half-birthday. Remember celebrating half-birthdays?  It seems to work only when you're still in the single digits, like my guys.

Eight and a half, today.  How did that happen?  One more birthday on this side of the fence, and then after that they're into the double digits.  Big boys.  Blink, blink. 

They were summer babies, and to think of their birthday is to think of late July's deep heat.

Jacob & Ethan, 1 day old
Not a bad thought today, as the mercury hovers just around the freezing point and we may be expecting a bit more snow later this afternoon.

Our car, street parked in New York City?  Is not currently a vehicle, but rather a vaguely car-shaped snowbank.  Plow-piled snow encases our car up to the windows plus the 19 fresh inches sit atop the roof like so much white fluffy frosting.

Frosting... that gets me to thinking... of cakes in general, and then birthday cakes in particular.  Which draws us right back round again to the matter at hand: boys and half-birthdays, half-birthdays and boys.

So maybe I should take my cue from the above, combat a case of the mid-winter blues, cheer myself up, inspired by all this birthday and cake talk, and herewith take you on a photographic tour down birthday memory lane via my ONE claim to domestic awesomeness: my amazing mommy-made birthday cakes:

In the beginning were cupcakes for birthdays one and two. Easy to make, no big knives need be left laying around curious toddlers with swift, fat, grabby fingers.  And?  They didn't know any better, what was important was the eating of them.

But then they turned three, and had seen birthday cakes in books and on TV.   Beautiful, decorated cakes.  And Ethan pounced, begged, made specific demands requests.

So it all began in 2005, when the boys were Thomas the Tank Engine obsessed 3 year-olds.  Ethan had asked for a James cake, as his then love of the color red extended to all things, including trains.  And I knew that for Jacob, who still yet did not always make his desires known, Thomas, the main character was the right choice.

Since I was making two cakes, and not everyone loves chocolate (although that makes no sense to Ethan who believes non-chocolate deserts have no reason to live), I made one cake, Ethan's, chocolate and the other, Jacob's, vanilla.

I pulled out the boys Thomas placements, and painstakingly copied the illustrations onto the cakes:
2005: My FIRST cake - Thomas for Jacob
As Ethan's chocolate frosting was so dark, problem solving how to write a legible "Happy Birthday" in the requested blue gel inspired the bug puffy steam cloud coming out of the smokestack, possibly my favorite part.
2005: James the red engine for Ethan
I wasn't sure I could pull it off, had never attempted anything quite like this before.  I dove in, in pure experimental mode, and... I succeeded, damn it!  The problem here being: once you do this well, once?  It becomes expected every year.  And I'm supposed to improve, too, to top myself, as it were.

OK, 2006: Once again, one chocolate, one not.  Lemon-vanilla, this time.  Also?  This was the first year Jacob was on his special Gluten Free/Casein Free diet.  So I had to find a really good vanilla GF/CF cake mix and make a practice cake before I inflicted it upon the masses.

I was, once again, taking design requests.  And this year I figured out that printing out simple line-drawing coloring pages found online was the best way to create a "pattern" for my decorating. 

So, four year-old Jacob was in love with Pingu the penguin:
2006: Pingu for Jake
While Ethan at four showed considerable loyalty to his father as his nascent superhero obsession erupted.  He chose Spider-man:
2006: Spidey for Ethan
Spider-main turned out a little lumpier than he was supposed to be, but within tolerable limits, I think.

And in 2007?  Cars, baby!  Jake was in love, I mean IN LOVE with Mac, the big Mac truck who is Lightning's best friend:
2007: Mac for Jake
Ethan wanted 5 cars  on his, which I nixed, but did acquiesce (after much begging) to a 2 car road scene tableau, from above, with a Route 66 logo.  I'm a sucker, what can I say:
2007 for Ethan: Route 66
I can admit, this was not my best effort.  It was late, I was getting tired.  In an ideal world, I would have filled in more green at the side of the road instead of just that lame lone squiggle.  Oh, well, it was devoured and enjoyed, just the same.

In 2008 I discovered the existence of Wilton shaped cake pans.  Who knew?  Learning about these was a revelation.  There was still a fuck-ton of work involved, but at least I didn't have to research the design.  Just E-bay the pans.  (You didn't think my kids wanted any of the current, easy to obtain designs, did you?  My kids?)

Once again the current superhero obsessions ruled: Batman for Jake and Power Ranger for Ethan. Jake's Batman cake was orange vanilla flavored and really delicious, no one would ever guess it was GF/CF unless they knew:
2008: Jake loved Batman
2008: Ethan was all about the Power Rangers
Ethan had directed me in the color choice for the Power Ranger's costume.  I bit my lip and restrained myself from sharing with him that making the Ranger sleeve's trim into a pink and green argyle made me refer to this one as "Buffy the Connecticut Wasp Power Ranger" in my mind. 

In 2009, I had some serious fun.  Ethan had switched allegiances from the Bakugan to the Pokemon Japanimation tribe just before his birthday, and decided to "make it easy for you, Mom" by requesting a simple Pokeball design, as opposed to an elaborate character re-creation.

May I present the Pokeball cake: simple, elegant, nearly modernistic:
2009: Ethan gets a Pokeball
Jake, on the other hand, got his most elaborate cake to date in 2009.   

That summer he was a bit obsessed with the very hungry caterpillar character from the self named Eric Carle storybook.  His class had performed a stirring reading of this story at their graduation & moving up ceremony in June.

One day in June I had ducked into a Williams Sonoma store when a torrential rain suddenly came down upon me while waiting for the crosstown bus.  What was in the sale bin, but a shaped caterpillar cakelet pan, and the inspiration struck:
2009: A Very Hungry Caterpillar for Jacob
2009: Close up of the head cakelet
I had so much fun making this.  My little addition: I doubled the body pieces to make him really long.  Also?  I am very fond of my embellishments: the green colored sugar crusted over green frosting to make the eyes sparkle and then the grape twizzler antennae. (The mold was for a generic caterpillar with a different face. I turned him into Eric Carle's specific caterpillar.)

Which brings us up to the present. This past year, 2010, was the boys' year of Pokemon. A shaped cake pan Pikachu (thank you Wilton) for Jacob, whose favorite color progressed to yellow this summer:
2010: Pikachu for Jake
And for Ethan?  I think I outdid myself this past year.  He initially wanted some particularly complex and difficult to draw Pokemon, but we finally settled on this guy, Lapras, who seemed actually do-able.  I think I did a pretty damn good job re-creating him, using, once again, a computer coloring page pattern:
2010: Lapras for Ethan
OK, here's the Lapras, image I used, you be the judge:

And now, in hindsight (because when have I ever NOT over-thought things), I realize that while I had thought I was doing this particular post to bring a little summer cheer into the winter gray, I also see, as this rolls along, that I had ulterior motives (when do I ever not, isn't there always a secondary agenda floating along under the overt... or is that just me?)*

I think I needed to remind myself, to prove to you all, that there's some things in life at which I do not, actually, completely suck.  Because lately?  I've been feeling pretty sucktastic, especially when it comes to the state of my messy home and all things domestic.  Sigh.

And maybe it's just the inevitable post-operative depression talking (I had been warned it might set in at about 3 weeks when the physical was mostly healed but I was not yet back to 100%).   But anyway, here it is: my house may be an absolute disaster, but there is something domestic at which I am fairly glorious.  So take that!

Also, before you go suggesting I do something like this for a living?  No, no and no.  These take me FOREVER.  I love doing this for my kids, they are a labor of love, and shall remain that way.  Once a year.  My kids only.  Probably my grand-kids (way) down the road.

And now I'm off to make a special half-birthday lunch for my dear boys.  Tomorrow they will be closer to nine, one day closer to being claimed fully by the world.  Today they are still eight and a half, still mine.

*another example of how I have legitimately earned my crown as "Queen of the Run-on Sentence  (with parenthetical clauses).

Vote for me yet today?  One click is all you need to show me your love!