birthday

Happy Birthday Rory!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments

I am so insanely proud of this perfect cake (see the below post).

Rory’s birthday was Friday, actually. (I think I begin to see why that word showed up in my wordle.) And it was also a little bit Saturday, when we skyped with Grandma Jo and opened HER presents, and then it will be a little bit Monday, when we take treats to class because you cannot take treats to class on muffin day, seriously, people, what are you thinking? It’s muffin day.

And then even more NEXT Saturday, which is her birthday party because her Mommy did not get her act together and rent the bouncy house at the rec center in time, and also because her Daddy has to be somewhere for several hours, and rather luckily, anyway, because her sister barfed Thursday and you know, there’s no telling what could be next. So. One spread out birthday. Our birthdays always seem to have a lot of drift to them. More to celebrate, I guess. Or more to clean up. It depends on how you look at it.

But as for Friday: Rory. Six. You know, when we adopted her at three I never really thought she would actually turn six. Six is pretty old. Six is real kid material. Six is serious.

Rory makes a delightful six. She’s SO DIFFERENt than she was a year ago, let alone two years ago. And yet so much the same. She has so much more to say. So much more ability to say it. She’s this complete mixture of independence and wanting-to-please and love and uncertainty, still. We’re having hugging lessons, because she still stands stock still to receive her hugs. Rory really likes hugging lessons.

Here she is waiting for her presents. Close your eyes! Keep them closed!

Present delivery!

Rory had a pretty decent haul from her loving family. The hula hoop is from Wyatt.

When I was little, these were called "lemon twists." Now it's a jingly ball. I liked the lemon.

The jumping ball is from me. From Sam, not pictured except above, “wrapped” by Sam in the giant Zappos box, is a crayon-melty maker machine. From Daddy, also not pictured, a Wii game. It’s from Daddy only in the sense that when she unwrapped it, we told her it was from Daddy and she bought it. Daddy has been moved, once in a while, to buy a present himself, but this time I was in charge. I did good.

From me and from Lily, a... Guess. If you've got a girl, you know by the box.

And, of course, soccer clothes for the above American Girl doll.

I was a little dubious about the doll. I knew who wanted the doll, and I wasn’t sure it was Rory. But I was wrong. Such is the value Lily places on the dolls that even Wyatt has one (the only boy available, a “Bitty Twin”). And plays with it with her. Rory seemed thrilled. I thought she’d prefer the ball, or the Wii game (and she DID love the Wii game), but the doll, with Lily’s help and without, was a hit. The best moment was probably when she opened it and Wyatt squealed “A look like me doll!” I think Wyatt would like a a Look Like Me doll, but I guess that’s not American Girl’s thing.

It does look like her, especially if you’re willing to concede that Asian eyes are just exactly the same shape as Western ones. Kinda.
I also gave her a Moshi Monsters sticker book and a stuffed Moshi that looks like her Moshi, which will mean nothing to you unless your kids do Moshi Monsters, which, in spite of them having something like a zillion members, no one else’s kids do.

And then, because we do things backwards, we had dinner. And then cake. Was it a good birthday?

It was.

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A Cake for the Cake-Hater

Saturday, September 24th, 2011 | Feeding the Devils | 3 Comments

I’m really, really proud of myself. I made a birthday cake that even my cake-hating Rory, she of the licked-off-frosting on the $3 cupcakes, loved. I’ve noticed lots of kids are like that—they’re either cake kids or frosting kids. (Me, I was and still am a cake kid, so I do sympathize.)

And I’ve noticed that our China-raised kids are often really not cake-eaters. So I’m pretty excited to share this:

Meringue! Ice Cream! Whipped Cream! More Meringue! SUGAR SUGAR SUGAR.

It’s the perfect cake for Rory. It combines three of her favorite things in all the world: meringues, ice cream and whipped cream. Also, candy letters, just for good measure. And it was incredibly easy, if kinda sticky, to make.

I started with the meringues. 6 egg whites, a pinch of cream of tartar and one of salt, a little vanilla (1 tsp maybe) and 1 1/2 cups sugar. (Standard recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour.) Egg whites and cream of tartar whipped to stiff peaks ( a good educational moment; every child should know what that means). Sugar, poured slowly into the still-whipping mixer bowl. (Ok, the bowl is not whipping. I’m not sure how to phrase that, but surely it’s clear.) Salt and vanilla go in last.

Stiff peaks! Ok, don't be crude.

The idea is to make three circles. You could do that with a spoon, but I decided to pipe them. Onto Parchment paper. That’s important, at least, I think it is. I have never made meringues without it.

I think it would maybe be better to spoon them, because the egg white was a little melty and sticky in the openings.

I still had lots of meringue left over, so I got creative.

Those are clouds. Meringue makes perfect clouds.

Bake at 200 degrees for 2 hours, then turn the oven off and leave over night.

Ready to bake.

Now, you need two little pints or whatever it is of vanilla ice cream. Leave them in your car over pick-up and while chatting with the new parent about winter life in NH and it will be nice and soft for spreading. Maybe too soft. Then comes the layering. Put the bottom disk on your cake plate and spread the ice cream right over it. We had a really, really humid day and the meringue was sticky, but it worked. The bottom layer stuck a bit to the parchment, but once it was covered in ice cream, you’d never know it.

Melty!

Back in the freezer it goes. Be sure to clear ample space in the freezer for your creation. How long will it take the ice cream to refreeze? I don’t really know. I left it for five hours, and then it was too hard, and the next layer wouldn’t really squish onto it until I let it melt again. I’d advice putting the next layer on now, and then put it back in the freezer.

This is the disk that DIDN'T stick.

Next, whip up a pint of whipping cream (I use the serious local farm stuff that practically whips if you shake the bottle) with some confectioner’s sugar. Or not. Trust me, you don’t really need more sugar at this point, but what the hell?

Spread the whipping cream on, and then top with the next layer of meringue. Then, a final layer of whipped cream and the meringue decorations. My “Happy Birthday” letters stuck–well, the “happy” did, so I improvised with the Wilton ones. I always keep a bunch around. Given that birthdays are predictable things, it’s surprising how often I find myself unprepared to make a birthday cake. The letters make anything look good. If you’re six.

Which Rory now is!

This is not the birthday post, though. This is the birthday CAKE post.

So: the only trouble with this cake is that it obviously has to be in the freezer, and the whipped cream is better if it doesn’t freeze (although it’s ok if it does), so last minute assembly is the way to go.

Here is the glorious result, sliced and ready. It really was surprisingly delicious, even from the adult perspective. The whipped cream cuts the meringue sweetness and there’s a yummy crunch to it all. And you can probably find someone else to eat the candy. (I like the candy. Don’t tell anyone.)

Yum. Seriously, yum.

Was it a hit?

It was.

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How was the Big Birthday?

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment

Great, if you just whitewash it here and there. The thing is, from two on, I had to just get my skates on and GO. 2:00 pick up Sam, town, snack, buy balloons, 3:00 pick up Lily, home put together big ole’ plastic doll house, cry because we cannot play more with it and it is not ours (well, that would be Lily). 4:00 babysitter’s, share cupcakes, celebrate. 4:30 Farmer’s Market for dinner. Park, try not to get run over, town is crazy busy, eat sausage, walk to swim lesson, try not to get run over, 5:40 swim lesson (it’s a one-week long special program at the college where each kid gets his or her own coach, and it’s great, but it’s hard to get here every night all week). get home, cake, presents, bed.

We actually managed to bring all that off with relative grace and charm, for me, and we were not late to anything, but oh, the emotional toll it takes on me to do all that shuttling and herding (add Rob to the mix for swim–he has to get in with Wy, who’s too young for his own coanch yet). Why? I don’t know. I worry that we won’t get there. I worry that I’ll yell. I worry that Rory and Wy will get run over. I worry that Sam’s homework won’t get done, which it didn’t, that they won’t get to bed, that they will get sick and I will be stuck with them when they should by all rights be in school.

But the birthday bits– all went really really well. Cupcakes were loved and appreciated and taken to school and talked about all day. Presents were wildly popular. We didn’t go overboard–and yet we still went big. She got a huge dollhouse and dolls and a car to tote them in–but in her mind it was all one glorious thing, and didn’t have that sort of “how can I play with everything” affect. And a game, which she played after half an hour with the dollhouse, very happily and it’s a game she and Wyatt or Lily or all three can really manage on their own, with only a little argument over who did what first.

Anyway, a very successful birthday, I think. And a card her foster family left for her. Which really, really pleased her.

They haven’t been in touch lately, which is sort of–she’s ours, now, without a doubt. I don’t think she doubts it, either. But she misses them, and especially her best friend, her Bethany. I think she’s beginning to understand where she’s from and what happened and to put some words to it. Overall, we’re in a pretty good place, but I wish I could give her a little talk with her friend. (I really wish I could give her a PLAYDATE with her friend, but oh well.) But I bet her friend is having a hard time without her, too, and maybe isn’t ready to talk to her, either. It will happen. It will all happen.

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Happy Birthday Rory!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 | Connecting the Dots | 4 Comments




Happy Birthday Rory!

Originally uploaded by kjda

Rory is four! (Well, in a few hours, anyway, and as best as we know, so there you are.)

If you’re thinking “That’s a pretty lame cake for a 4-year-old, KJ,” well, you’re right. It’s also pretty tiny. But just outside the picture are the two plus dozen mini cupcakes she’s taking to school, and the extra cupcakes for breakfast, and still more to share with her babysitter and friends, it looks a little better. (And if you’re thinking, “I need a recipe that makes four dozen mini cupcakes and one really very small cake, then you need the “easy cupcakes” recipe in this book. Actually, everybody needs this book. Trust me.)

Tomorrow is Rory’s fourth birthday. She’s getting a big ole’ pink plastic doll house with a doll family that kind of looks like ours, if you take a lot of liberties with race and stuff and keep in mind that Rory’s skin is really very brown and that the little boy doll’s hair is covered by his hat anyway. And a van for said doll house family. And a game. And some pink plastic furniture.

What she’s not getting is a party–and that’s odd, because as a rule there’s nothing we love more than parties, and we usually rock some pretty big ones. But the one friend Rory would really, truly want at her party can’t come, and we’re not going to pretend. Rory’s “Bethany friend” is in China, but we know she’d be here if she could.

Right decision? I don’t know. We’ll have a party–there will be balloons and cake and presents. And I think Rory is getting enough of other kids at school and such right now. I think it’s a solid decision, anyway.

I want to tell you how normal and regular and loving our day felt. I want to tell how much I’m thinking of Rory’s Mama Deena, who would usually be the one making all those cupcakes. I want to tell you that I’m thinking of Rory’s birth mama, and maybe I am. But it’s late, and it will all have to wait until tomorrow.

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