J’s Birthday Eve

It’s J’s birthday eve–she’ll be 9 tomorrow. We’ve already kicked off the celebration because she’ll be at gymnastics all through dinnertime on her birthday, so tonight was her by-request dinner (Mrs. Seals’ chicken).

She asked for brownies as her school treat, and I’m a little bummed about it, because I usually make Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Fudge Brownies from the box (and yes, I’ve even done a side-by-side comparison with homemade Mark Bittman brownies, and the Ghiradelli boxed won). But we’ve got someone with a peanut allergy in class, and when I went to look at the box it was one of those unbelievably annoying disclaimers like “This product might have been made somewhere in the vicinity of some equipment that might possibly have once come into contact with a nut or some milk, although it’s highly unlikely.” Alright, that’s not a direct quote, but you know what I mean. So I scrapped it and went Betty Crocker, who is no good for gluten-sensitive or lactose intolerant among us, but is okay for the non-nut crowd. But I have to say: dude, that was a mistake. The brownies are sub-par. I’m hoping J doesn’t notice how sub-par they are. Because I made a ton of them. A triple batch, to account for all the kids in her class, plus the kids in gymnastics, plus random extra teachers and/or coaches.

So I’m bummed about it and wishing that I’d only made one non-nut batch and used Ghiradelli for the rest. In fact, I also bought two boxes of Ghiradelli to contribute to Back-to-School Night later this week, and part of me would like to bake up a batch tonight. But that would be insane. Because it wouldn’t be enough for all the kids, anyway. And then what would we do? I’d just be, like, do you want the crappy, non-nut brownies, or the delicious and scrumptious brownies that. . .  oh, sorry, we ran out of those. Have a small square of crap.

This shouldn’t bother me so much. It’s just, I bake well. I only do homemade frosting, I am known for my scrumptious cookies. I’m only a boxed girl for brownies, and even then it’s because they’re better than homemade. So I hate serving that which is sub-par, even if it is to a bunch of 8-year-olds who are simply happy to have whatever. I know: I’m a nut. Get it?

Okay, going to try to move on.

Because we’ll be rushing around tomorrow (school to homework to gymnastics to bed), we let J open one present tonight, a fabulous American Girl set from Grandma and Grandpa. She didn’t even bite into the brownie because there were too many cool pieces to unwrap and set up. Then I pulled out the camera to take a couple of pictures to email. We brought out an American Girl and J put her new apron on her, then fiddled with the food a bit more. I stood up the doll and noticed that she could lean on the little food cart to stand up. “Hey, look,” I said. “She’s standing up–how cute is that!” To which J huffed, “You did a really good job with the doll, yeah, but I set up everything else.” Which made M laugh right away, but I managed to hold it together. J glanced up at M sharply, “I’m just saying, that I did most of the set-up.”  I shot M a don’t-you-dare-laugh look and said that I wasn’t even sure that the doll looked good the way I’d posed her, and maybe I should defer to J’s greater expertise. As it happened, she did have a better idea.

But the whole thing was pretty funny and charming, both seeing her stick up for herself and also getting so involved in playing that she felt she had to defend her turf with that annoying 42-year-old who clearly doesn’t know a damn thing about arranging dolls.

Later, I handed off the camera and J took several still-life shots with the attention to detail one might find from a food stylist at Real Simple.


Gotta go! We have birthday celebrating to do before she heads out at 7: a30m tomorrow.


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