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Recipe: Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

It’s so busy. And, honestly, my desire to write has been faltering recently. Posts and articles aren’t popping into my head like they usually do. So it’s been quiet around here. But I’m pulling it back together and digging through the drafts and making a brainstorm list of new content and who knows what else.

This recipe is almost a year old now. I made these Gluten Free Cupcakes for Sister-Bug’s “Pinkaliscious” birthday party last March.

I’ve been playing around with different flour mixes when I bake gluten-free. I hit on a mix that I used in cupcakes that was just perfect. Papa-Bug, who is notoriously picky about gluten-free baking, couldn’t tell that these cupcakes were anything other than normal. Everyone munched them up.
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Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

I used the Chocolate Layer Cake recipe on page 724 of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” as a guide.

Flour Mix:

3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/4 cup each tapioca and cornstarch

8 tbl. soft, unsalted butter

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, roughtly chopped

1 cup sugar

3 eggs separated

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 tsp xanthan gum

1 1/4 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 350* and prepare your cupcake liners/pans.

Melt the chocolate over low heat in a double boiler. Remove from the heat when it is almost melted and stir until it’s all smooth.

Cream the butter until fluffy, add the sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla and keep whipping it while slowly adding the chocolate.

Mix together the flour mix, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum in a separate bowl. Add to the butter/sugar a little at a time, alternating with the milk. Stir until just mixed and smooth.

Whip egg whites to soft peaks and fold in carefully – taking your time!) after mixing everything else.

Baked 25-30 min. until the toothpick came out clean. Let stand for 5 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

No one will know these are gluten-free.

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I’ll probably use a similar recipe for Sister-Bug’s upcoming 5th birthday party. She’s going to see Cinderella with her besties, so I get to do the requisite bowl cake with a doll for a Cinderella themed cake. Just like my mom did for me once upon a time.

 

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What Happened Here?

I must have blinked. This wee baby turned two yesterday. We went to the zoo and had Zebra Cupcakes. He opened presents and played with new toys.

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It's a bittersweet birthday. He's not a baby anymore (even though he prefers to be called “BabyMouse”). He's a busy, learning, going, running, drawing-on-the-walls toddler. He's picking up language and concepts with a rapidity that is astonishing – even after watching two other kids as toddlers.

 

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My baby has vanished in this busy little boy and there aren't more babies coming. So it's bittersweet. He was such a beautiful, tiny little squidget of a baby.

And now he's two. Oh so very two.

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Happy birthday, BabyMouse.

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And Now He is Eight

I remember eight being really monumental in my life. I think because I was old enough to audition for the local children's theatre group. Anyway. Today Brother-Bug turns eight. Here are some of my favorite pictures of him in the last year….

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He's grown so much and come so far this year. He's thoughtful and funny, witty and disgusting (ah, the humor of childhood). He's obsessed with weird things that make him chuckle at odd times. He's an incredibly thoughtful and nurturing big brother. He's learning…so much. Words fail me here. He's amazing.

 

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Eight looks like it is going to be an awesome adventure with this guy. I couldn't be a happier, or more proud, Mama.

 

Now She’s Four

It seems like the post about Sister-Bug turning three should be in my list of recent posts.

But it’s not.

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Yesterday I was too busy to sit down and share this post. And by the time we got home from ice cream, the birthday girl and I were ready to just lay down.

It’s been another wonderful year watching this little girl continue to grow into herself.

I’m excited to see what four brings to our little world and what adventures this little lady explores.

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From her birth to her crazy singing to her powerful sense of self and independence, she is one of the most loving and indomitable people I have ever had the pleasure to know. I look at her with awe and wonder.

Happy 4th Birthday to an amazing little girl.

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Birth Story: Baby-Bug’s Suprise

I am having a really hard time believing that a year ago right now we were just barely getting to know our little Baby-Bug. But the calendar is looking me in the eye and declaring that the end of October has come around and the Newborn is now a One-Year-Old. Last year while we were waiting for his arrival, I posted Brother-Bug’s Birth Story and then Sister-Bug’s Birth Story. I feel incredibly blessed to have had three powerful, incredible, home births. This is Baby-Bug’s story.

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The weekend before Halloween, my best friend came to town for a visit. She wanted to offer help and asked if before or after the baby’s arrival would be best. I said before. After a baby is born its easy to get help. You have a newborn. People bend over backwards to help (and ogle the baby too). But 8-9 months pregnant with two small kids? That’s not as fun. But everything is so hard. Cooking takes twice as long, you have to stand sideways to wash dishes, lifting laundry baskets can be a circle of hell. So we looked at our calendars and picked a weekend about 2-3 weeks out from the due date (3-4 weeks from when our midwife and I estimated arrival).

My friend arrived and we hung out on Friday. She helped with chores and errands. The previous weekend all four of us had been struck with a horrible stomach bug. There was still laundry and tidy-up to do from that. We got the diapers and newborn clothes out of the attic and started washing the little things. On Friday night the kids donned their Halloween costumes and we went to our local children’s museum for a mad science Halloween party.

One other important thing happened on Friday. We went to our pre-natal. My friend was thrilled to head the heartbeat. The baby’s head was engaging, but wasn’t quite all the way down yet. My urine test showed none of the hormones that are precursors to labor. My midwife looked at me – exhausted and huge – and said, “You know it’s probably three weeks before you have this baby, right?” I sighed and agreed. Three weeks at least. Two if I was really lucky, but after two kids that were born around 42 weeks, I knew I still had my work cut out for me. My midwife gave me a sympathetic hug. She went out wine tasting that night – she doesn’t drink a drop if she has a mama in the general area of delivery. I was nowhere close.

Saturday was more of the same. We hung out, did laundry, and decided to deep clean the kitchen. My friend and I wiped counters, cleaned under the stove, emptied the fridge, washed all the cupboard doors. We talked and laughed and she joyfully did all the little things my huge belly wouldn’t allow me to do.

In the late afternoon I had a weird contraction. Not Braxton-Hicks. Whatever. I mostly ignored it. A while later, another. I went pee and noticed I was spotting a little. I called the midwife. I told her nothing to worry about, but I was having some weird contractions, spotting, and wanted to keep her up to speed on events. She and I talked it out, neither of us concerned or anticipatory. With the two previous kids I had protracted labors – just a few contractions every night – for a week or two. We suspected this was more of the same.

More contractions. More kitchen cleaning. More spotting. My friend went out to dinner with her family. Another call to the midwife. She and I still agreed that I wasn’t in labor, but that I should maybe step up my labor plan. Put my support people on call, get my sister here from California in the next couple of days. No big deal, but let’s get ready.

Papa-Bug took the Little-Bugs out to buy a birth sheet and mattress protector. I called my sister. She decided to clear her schedule, do some laundry, get some rest, and come up the next day. I called our other support person. It was her son’s birthday. She had a houseful of boys for a sleepover. No worries, I told her. Just realize you are going to get the call sooner than we thought.

I kept folding and putting away laundry. The contractions were about 25 minutes apart and beginning to pull my focus into them when each one washed over me. A similar thing had happened with Sister-Bug’s birth about a week before she arrived. I called my friend and let her know what she was coming home to after her dinner party. Papa-Bug and the Littles came back with a sheet.

We settled down in bed to watch Gnomeo & Juliet. The contractions were really increasing in intensity, but not frequency or duration. My friend returned and settled in with us. One more call to the midwife. She sighed and asked if I wanted her to come out for a check. I said yes – I didn’t think I was in full blown labor, but I wanted to be able to tell my sister how soon to start her 9 hour drive up here. I wanted to call my other friend and give her the heads up with good information.

The midwife came out. We decided to check my cervix – something we had never done before with any pregnancy or labor. I was four centimeters dilated, but she and I still were skeptical. I was probably 3-4 centimeters with the other two kids for several days before their labors. We chatted about options and plans. The kids told her about the movie. I interrupted the conversation to have a contraction.

After the contraction, my midwife looked me in the eye. “I’m going to wait on the couch until you need me.”

Wait. What?

This baby was coming. Now. Tonight. I was in labor. What?

I called my sister. Get in the car NOW. It was around 10 PM. She was on the road by 11. We wanted two people to support the kids, one for each of them. I called my youngest brother. He was at a Halloween party. He stopped drinking, promising to down some coffee and get to our house as soon as he could safely drive. Papa-Bug put the birth sheet on the bed. At some point we talked to the kids. My friend took Brother-Bug into sleep with her. He was tired, my contractions and related growls were ramping up and he just wanted someone to snuggle him. Sister-Bug stayed in the bedroom with me and Papa-Bug. We had told her many times that the best thing she could do while I was in labor was to be quiet and give me “blue light”. I looked over at her during a contraction. She was wide-eyed, hands reaching toward me, intense concentration on her two-year old face. Around midnight she fell asleep like that – hands out, giving me blue light to ease my labor. Papa-Bug carried her in to cuddle her brother.

The contractions continued. I love giving birth except when I’m in the midst of it. While I’m there I yell and scream and curse and howl. My body moves of its own accord. It is amazing to be in that place. And while I’m there…grrrrrrrrrrr.

My brother arrived. Here is my one disappointment. He paused at his house to change out of his Halloween costume. Had he not made that decision, Indiana Jones (complete with whip) would have been at Baby-Bug’s birth. While comfortable street clothes were probably the good choice…well, Indiana Jones would have been So Cool.

Labor progressed. My sister was driving, assuming she would miss the moment of birth, but hoping. The kids were asleep. Papa-Bug and our midwife placed bets on how much longer it would be. The contractions slipped into one long pull of force. Papa-Bug went to wake up the Little-Bugs because we knew they wanted to be at the delivery, but they slept soundly.

Finally, my waters broke, amniotic fluid pouring down my legs. Our midwife replaced the towels and told Papa-Bug to get ready to catch – the baby would be coming any contraction now.

One more strong contraction, a slip and a slid, a howl and a push. Papa-Bug was halfway there and he dove toward me as Baby-Bug all but fell out in that one mighty push. Papa-Bug managed to almost get half and hand under as the baby hit the bed, face up, with a squelchy splashing sound I will never forget. The first thing Papa-Bug said was “It’s a boy!”.

Somehow we maneuvered the baby through my legs to cuddle up on my chest. Our midwife and Papa-Bug helped me back on to pillows and wrapped me and the tiny baby in blankets. She left us in candle lights to get to know our new person.

Eventually I delivered my placenta, the cord was cut, and the sheets changed. Papa-Bug brought the kids back to our family bed. Brother-Bug continued to sleep, but Sister-Bug woke up and nursed with her new brother.

My sister was in Northern California, on the phone with my brother when Baby-Bug came out. He was born at 1:42, and she arrived at 9:00 the next morning. Brother-Bug and Sister-Bug were fully awake by then, excited to have the baby finally here and to show their aunt their brother. My friend called in sick to work and stayed for a couple of days to help with…everything.

We hadn’t expected a Halloween baby. All signs – both pervious birth history and the baby’s pre-natals had pointed to a mid-November birth. But Baby-Bug did things his own way – both a trick and a treat.

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It’s been a crazy and wonderful year with this guy. It’s such a delight and an honor to be his Mama. Happy Birthday Baby-Bug!

Star Wars Birthday

Papa-Bug and I used to plan Poetry Slams and art events. We did a lot of theatre. We like costumes and props. All that creative passion finds its way to our kids' events now – birthdays, Halloween costumes, and similar. This year, enamoured with all things StarWars, the birthday party ideas were easy for Brother-Bug. And thanks to the thrift store and plenty of experience from the past event creation, also easy for me.

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The cake is just a frosted sheet cake, piped decorations, and an awesome Millenium Falcon I found while thrifting. Score! His face when we revealed the cake (it is a surprise every year) was perfect. I wish I had a picture of that, but I was holding the cake and Papa-Bug was holding the baby. Oh well. I'll just remember.

What this party brought out for you, my loyal readers' enjoyment was a couple of ridiculously simple tutorials. First, Princess Leia. Of course, dress up was key for Brother-Bug, and it follows that Sister-But wouldn't be anyone but Princess Leia. Halloween is coming up, and some of you might need to make your own preschool Leia, so here you go.

Pillowcase Princess Leia

Get a white pillow case a the thrift store. I ended up spending fifty cents on ours. Mark a neck hole on the center fold (bottom) of the sack and armholes along the sides.

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Cut the neck and armholes out. Cut small. It's far easier to make an armhole bigger… The pillow case we are using here is a standard size. A taller kid could use a king size. The standard made about a 3T sized costume.

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One one side cut a slit about 4-5 inches down, to make the neck hole big enough for Leia's head to get through.

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Try it on your aspiring Princess and adjust the neck and armholes. Twirl a few times. She's laughing because she's wearing a pillowcase. It was so funny to her.

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Run gathers on both shoulders. Cut a strip of white fabric or ribbon to use as a belt. I tacked the belt to one side so it would stay on and in place.

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From here you can finish it off as much as you want to. Bias tape on the raw edges, facings, Velcro on the neck opening… I just left it all raw and unfinished. It was a chilly day, so we layered it over a white turtle neck (leftover from her Dorothy costume from last Halloween). It was perfect.

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Princess Leia and Han Solo. Bless you, thrift stores.

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Our Death Star piñata was a ball that I covered with tissue paper, white glue, and then an layer of glittery wrapping paper, the details were just sharpie.The light saber is a dowel with the red side of the same glittery wrapping paper and a duct tape handle.

There was a last minute project. I had made, per Birthday Boy Request, a lemon cake. There was a layer of home made lemon curd in the middle. Which meant I had a bunch of egg whites to use up. What to do with 5 egg whites, little time, and a Star Wars party….

One more easy tutorial!

Light Saber Meringues

Use a basic meringue recipe. We dyed our light sabers red and green, flavored almond and peppermint respectively. Color and flavor are up to you.

With a wide piping end, pipe 3-4 inch tubes on to parchment. Get them as straight and smooth as possible – these are elegant weapons for a more civilized age, right?

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Sprinkle most of each light saber with matching colored sugar. Bake as your recipe recommends.

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Melt some chocolate, and dip the un-sugared ends to represent handles. Brother-Bug and I both wished for a red candy dot of some kind to accent the handle. Maybe another time…with more planning.

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Voila! Easy light sabers. And ever so tasty, too.

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All in all, it was a fun, fabulous, successful birthday. I think my guy feels fully seven and we all had a great time at the party.

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Brother-Bug’s Day

He's seven today. Remember ten minutes ago when he turned 6? Or fifteen minutes ago when he was 5?

It seems like mere moments since he was a mystery to us. His birth changed us from a couple to a family; made me a Mama; sculpted the structure of our family.

Brother-Bug's Birth Story

For his Privilege and Responsibility he's getting his own library card this week. It's something he's been wanting for several years.

His presents are all superheroes and StarWars. There's going to be a Millennium Falcon cake at his party on Saturday. It's all so very Seven.

Happy Birthday, Little-Bug. It's such an honor and adventure to be a Mama to you.

The photos are chronological birthdays, excepting the first. He's about 10 days old in that first one.