Storybook Birthday Party

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One month ago, my darling baby Caitlin turned 2!

Of course, if you ask her how old she is, she says, “Cake!”

Caitlin is a sweet and determined little girl. She always knows what she wants and what she doesn’t! It has been so fun watching her learn over this past year: just when I think she might take forever to figure something out, she takes off running (literally. at 13½ months. walking is for chumps). She studies everything around her, speaks in complete sentences, and stands up for herself. She loves hugs and being outside and picture books. She loves shoes and farm animals and helping with chores. Her favorite foods are peanut butter and grapes.

Caitlin loves nothing better than sitting in our laps and reading books, so we threw her a storybook party to celebrate her second year of life!

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First Birthday Bubble Bash

Caitlin's Cake

Somehow a whole year has flown by, and my baby girl turned 1!

In some ways, it doesn’t even seem real: she still has no teeth and she’s not walking on her own quite yet. Although she loves to enthusiastically yell, “Hi!” on the phone, she still seems to think blowing raspberries is the best form of communication. She’s still my baby—she can’t possibly be a whole year old!

Caitlin has a smile that lights up her whole face. She throws back her head when she grins, and it’s like her entire body quivers with joy. She loves her brother, she loves to explore, she loves hugs, she loves books and ripping paper (not the best combination), and she loves to put every small thing into her mouth. She certainly keeps us on our toes, and we are so glad to know her!

Bubble SmilesFor Caitlin’s first birthday, we threw a bubble bash. I bought bubble machines and wands and set out a bunch of food and we invited friends and family to come celebrate!

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Milk Bar Funfetti Birthday Cake

Milk Bar Funfetti Birthday Cake

I like to call people up on their birthdays and sing to them.

So someone call me up and croon a little tune, because this blog is FIVE YEARS OLD! And I just can’t believe it.

Naturally, to mark the occasion, I baked a cake. Because what good is a birthday celebration without cake?

Happy birthday to Smells Like Brownies! Here’s to five more years of doing things deliciously (and making my family and friends wait around to eat until I finish staging a hundred photos).

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Snickerdoodle Layer Cake

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I have noticed a change in myself recently.

The longer I do this blogging thing, the more I bake and cook and try new things, the less I am daunted by recipes that have many steps or seem like they may take a while. I am no longer irritated by sifting. I expect to leave a mountain of dirty dishes in my wake…it doesn’t even seem like a deterrent anymore.

Surprisingly, recipes that I once thought of as time-consuming actually go faster! (I think I finally gained some knife skills, y’all.)

I have become more of a perfectionist, more critical of the foods I produce…because I can actually think of a dozen ways to balance the flavors or improve the texture! (Consequently, I no longer even bother to photograph every new dish I make, because I know I will want to tweak it before I share it.)

Last week, someone sent me a recipe that was literally just a list of ingredients. And I made a pretty amazing cake out of it without batting an eye or consulting any cookbooks.

I feel almost like a different person…I have started to trust myself in the kitchen. I have started to listen to my instincts more and have fewer facepalm moments.

I realized all of this due in large part to this cake. (Thank you, cake, and thank you, mom’s birthday!)

This cake is nothing short of delicious. It’s tender and airy, richly cinnamon and sweet. It tastes like a crisp snickerdoodle cookie. Oh, and it’s made entirely without wheat or dairy. Woot!

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“Should I Share My Ice Cream?” Party

Jake Licks Batter

My son is smart and wily and creative. He is thoughtful and determined and energetic.

And he is 3 years old!

It's My Birthday!This year for Jake’s birthday, I really wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to spend less time worrying and preparing, and more time marveling at how my tiny baby turned into this enormous, articulate preschooler, a little boy with a strong will and a contagious smile!

Jake never hesitates when you ask him what his favorite foods are: ice cream and pizza. (Clearly I have been teaching him everything I know…) So this year we decided to have an ice cream party to celebrate what an awesome kid Jake is!

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Baby Caitlin

Baby Caitlin

Life has just gotten more beautiful!

Our new little daughter, Caitlin, is such a charmer. She is definitely keeping us on our toes, but every time she flashes that ear-to-ear smile (yes, I know it’s a reflex, but it’s just so cute!) she melts our hearts.

Life as a family of four has been very sweet so far! We feel so blessed as we get to know our newest little one!

Happy Family

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Farm Birthday Party

It happened.

Farmhand JakeMy baby turned 2! I am still not sure how this is possible, but every day he is chatting incessantly and singing songs and creating new things and just delighting us. (What a big difference from what he was doing two years ago!)

For example, this morning, he wanted to play with play-doh, and as I was getting it out, he announced, “Don’t eat play-doh,” (which, as you may guess, is a rule for a reason…) and then proceeded to build a layered birthday cake with little straws for candles.

Yeah, the birthday event really made an impression on him!

Look, Sheep!This year, we went to a local farm park to celebrate Jake’s birthday with family and some of his friends. Frying Pan Farm Park has a working dairy farm, a collection of antique tractors and farm equipment, a ton of animals to check out (and, bonus, the pigs and goats recently had babies), as well as open spaces to run around, a carousel, and two sets of playground equipment. It’s the real deal for kids of any age!

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Chocolate Prune Smash Cake + Curious George Party

Chocolate Prune Smash Cake

My baby is 1!!

How did that even happen?

In keeping with my goal to one day turn into Annie of Annie’s Eats, I planned the heck out of a birthday party for him. I landed on a Curious George theme (from the books, not the show), because my kid looooves to investigate anything he sees or gets his hands on. And he gets into everything. It seemed fitting.

Mantle and Gift Table I spent days and days cutting cardstock into circles and stripes and triangles to make favor tags and birthday signs.

Curious George GuestbookI framed pictures scanned from the Curious George books to accent the whole house (gift table, cake stand, activities for kids, you name it!).

Piano DecoI put monkeys and photos all over the house. (And you can’t see it, but on the far wall there is a giant slideshow of Jake over the last year!)

I blew up balloons and tried to redecorate the entire house into primary colors (um, yes, I did tack yellow vinyl tablecloths to the walls. I don’t want to talk about it). It took a lot of effort. I got very little sleep. But in the end, I was so happy with how Jake’s party turned out!

Fist Full of CakeHe seemed to have fun, too.

Especially with the cake (he is, after all, my son)! He grabbed a fistful of cake and shoved it into his mouth and ate/smeared/shared happily for 20 minutes. (P.S., I spent the entire birthday song choking back tears…how did my little bundle turn into a toddler already!?)

I am so proud of this smash cake! I wanted to make something that wouldn’t overload him with sugar out the gate, since we have been very diligent with his diet up til now: the only sweetness he’s ever had has been from actual fruits, and I’m not talking about juices or concentrates. I decided that I wanted to give Jake chocolate cake because it’s clearly the best, but I also wanted it to be vaguely familiar to him, with minimal added sugar. So I decided to include fruits, which would lend flavor, texture, and sweetness, without being overpowering. Hence, chocolate prune cake!

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Strawberries and Cream Cake

Strawberries and Cream Cake

Well by now, you probably all know how much I hate fruit.

But if you ever met my dad, you would seriously wonder how I turned out this way! He never met a fruit he didn’t like. In fact, he prefers fruit over chocolate (gasp)!

So this year I got to play the host for my dad’s birthday celebration. He requested an amazing meal…none of which I ate. Pork chops with white balsamic glaze, baby potatoes and peas with bacon, applesauce, and strawberry cake. Not the most Melissa-friendly meal, but honestly I was delighted to prepare it for him!

The crowning glory of any birthday meal, of course, is the cake. And I have to admit that even though strawberries are my second least favorite fruit, they sure do make a beautiful cake!

I hear it’s strawberry season. You should go buy a few cartons of fresh strawberries at your local farmer’s market (yay! they just opened in our area!) and set in on making a towering cake filled with strawberries and cream and frosted with a light strawberry Swiss buttercream. I hear it will be delicious 😉

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Baby Jake

Guess what!?

I’m a MOMMY!

Little Jake couldn’t possibly be more adorable if he tried.

Dave and I are busy adjusting to life as parents…and let me just say it has been an adventure so far! Our little guy is so amazing, and we are so happy that he has *finally* joined us!

 

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