Happy Birthday, Dear Pickle

birthday 2 candleI am now mother to a two year old. That is all kinds of weird. But also all kinds of brilliant. The funny thing is, I was really terrified of this stage, but while it’s nothing like easy, it is less horrifying, and far more enjoyable, than I expected. The tantrums, while louder and more stubborn than before, are also more avoidable; when they’re old enough to have things explained to them, and can have more forewarning, you can head certain issues off at the pass.

Reading a book and sneaking a cuddle have always been wonderful things, but now they’re even more wonderful because she’s so engaged with what’s going on. She’s memorised her current favourites (The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Slinky Malinki and Wocket in my Pocket this week) and can narrate them aloud even with no book in front of her. It’s almost like I’ve accidentally trained a Victorian child to read poetry to the class! What’s really funny is she keeps in my inflections too, so it’s like listening to a slightly scrambled radio recording of myself being beamed scratchily in from somewhere in the wilds of Eastern Europe:

Shlinky Malinki was blackern black!
A TALKING and YURKING aventchrus cat!
He had bright yeyyow eyes,
A WAR-bing wayul,
An’ kink at end of his YONG black tayul.

I could listen to this all day. Or this:

Once there was a yittle girl called SO-phie, and she was having tea wiv her Mummy  in the KITCH-en. Sudd’ly, there was ring at the DOOR.

Sophie’s Mummy said, “I wonder who can THAT can be?”…

When she recites “It can’t be DADDY because he’s got his KEY”, she tends to interject “a other one Daddy”, in case I think the book is about her Dad. “A other one” always makes me laugh; her bed time snuggle toys are called Weasel and A Other One Weasel.

She was very excited about her birthday, and kept announcing “is gonna be my BIRTHDAY soon, and I will have a birthday cake and blow out candles” – which is indeed exactly what happened. In fact we made a cake together on the day before, which then got chopped up and sent off to nursery, and then I made cupcakes the following day, which she enjoyed and which went down well with all the family. I’ve finally decided that life is too short for making frosting – I enjoy the baking bit so much more – and made Hummingbird Bakery recipe red velvet cupcakes* topped with piped on canned Betty Crocker vanilla icing. I then got out my decorating stash – red glitter, candy polka dots, jelly diamonds and sprinkles – and even used the mini chopper to blitz the thin slices I’d ended up with when levelling a couple of the cakes and sprinkled the crumbs on as a decoration.

The results can be seen here:

birthday cupcakes - red velvet and vanilla icing

And the ritual candle-blowing here. I wasn’t helping, honest:

Pickle Birthday Candles Alexandra R. Goldstein

I hadn’t intended to get Ramona very much for her birthday as she’s only two and has a full complement of grandparents and other relatives ready to spoil her, but I ended up going shopping that morning and splurging without quite meaning to. The official present from Mummy and Daddy was her first Peppa Pig playset (she loves playing with some her cousins have), but she also now has some gorgeous new clothes from the fantastic Tootsa MacGinty – I can only afford them in the sale, but it’s worth the wait! – and a really lovely range at M&S (I want these trousers in my size, too! Including the adjustable waist for after cake…!). She’s also already got stuck into reading Meg on the Moon (or, as she called it, “Meg Goes to the Moon”) and Dr Seuss’s ABC. What can I say? She’s a lucky pickle.

Even luckier, she’s actually having a party in a couple of weeks when more family can join us, so she’ll be getting more birthday cakes than years she’s been alive. Which sounds like a very good deal to me.

Two years of brilliant. And so many more to come. We’re all very lucky.

*My mother has given me two excellent pieces of baking advice (other than the obvious – Know Your Oven**) which have stood me in very good stead. 1) Unless your recipe genuinely depends on using butter, use Stork instead. 2) Unless your cake is supposed to be dense, use self-raising flour for everything, even when it says plain and you’re adding more raising agents. Fluffiest. Cakes. Ever. Trust me.

**No, really. I baked the first cake at 160 for 22 minutes, and the cupcakes for 13 minutes, again at 160. I just know that for most sponge-type cakes that’s the optimal temperature for this oven. Cookies are a very good way to find out if your oven heats unevenly, as you’ll be able to see the overcooked ones, and can open the oven door to check them which you can’t do with a cake.

Thus endeth the very amateur baking lesson. 


    1. Thank you!

      I think this candles thing is a swizz. It should be a CAKE for every year… and one for luck.


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