The Gauntlet

11 04 2011

The gauntlet begins in eleven days.

By the end of June I shall be tested to the limit of my endurance, completely celebration-ed out.  From April 22 through June 19, we will celebrate my husband’s 54th birthday, Easter, our son’s 25th birthday, my mother-in-law’s 59th wedding anniversary, our 29th wedding anniversary, our daughter-in-law’s 24th birthday, our son’s and daughter-in-law’s 2nd wedding anniversary, Mother’s Day, and my 50th birthday, which is on Fathers’ Day this year.*

Maybe it’s presumption, but this year there will probably be more than one party in my honor for my semi-centennial, adding more events to our overly-full calendar and inches on our middle-aging waists.  And maybe I’m looking at the future through the past, but in previous years by the time we reach my birthday, I’m tired of celebrating.  A day at the library poring over magazines I don’t subscribe to is preferable to one more party.

This string of parties is complicated and hampered by the fact that the party-planning gene got left out of my DNA strand.  And I don’t like cake.

American festivity IS cake.  Birthdays can’t be celebrated without trick candles atop two overly-decorated layers.  Weddings require skyscrapers covered in cascading fondant roses.  Most holidays (thank goodness pumpkin pie reigns on Thanksgiving!) must also have a cake to be properly feted.  In our society celebration just can’t be done properly without cake.

My feeling is why waste half of the party calories on dry floury crumbs, when they could be totally spent on ice cream?  Luscious creamy goodness!  There is no contest!!

Growing up in a large family, I ate any and all sweets (including cake) because my (also party-challenged) mother baked desserts infrequently.  When she discovered the recipe for Cream-Filled Cupcakes, birthdays got way better for both of us.  Since frosting isn’t needed, they were easy to make for a harried mother-of-five, and I got my cream-fix in my cake.

Now in my own family, these two-for-one cupcakes have become our birthday tradition.  I pushed them so hard when our sons were growing up they didn’t have a chance.

Although I’ve never heard any complaints.


*That leaves our other son’s birthday, my mother’s and mother-in-law’s birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas to be spread throughout the other ten months of the year.

Cream-Filled Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

1.  Make chocolate cake mix*, preheat oven according to package directions, and put batter into cupcake papers/pans.
2.  Beat:    8 oz softened cream cheese
3.  Mix in:    1/3 c. sugar
4.  Beat in:    1 egg
5.  Stir in:    1 c. (6 oz.) chocolate chips (and colorful sprinkles if you like)
6.  Drop a teaspoon of cheese mixture into each cupcake batter.
7.  Top with sprinkles.
8.  Bake as package directs.

* I never use more than 2 eggs, even if the box directions call for more.  I also increase the water by 2 or 3T.  This will ensure that the batter isn’t too thick, allowing the cheese to sink to the bottom of the cupcake as it bakes.

These cupcakes are sweet enough without frosting.  The sprinkles and candles are all that’s needed to make them pretty.


Tree Flowers

4 04 2011













There are flowers on the trees.  Not brilliant splashes of color like the crocus in my garden, but deep red bunches, each individual bloom the size of a small pea, covering the ends of every small twig of these trees.  From a distance they might be mistaken for last year’s berries, not fresh growth announcing the birth of a new season after the death of winter.

Their under-stated beauty appeals to me.  While contributing to the cycle of life by eventually producing scads of those twirling helicopter seeds, each one is delicately radiant.  The rich red color that originally attracted me, covers the surface of a solid green base-every one a mini-powerhouse of activity adding to the high pollen count this week no doubt!

There are no showy petals like the tulips will soon wear in order to cajole bees to visit and provide transport for their pollen.  How are the tree-flowers pollinated?  I didn’t see bees on the branches or hear the steady hum that will soon surround our crabapple tree when every branch bursts into bloom.  I wonder if the wind does the work?

Spring winds, full of new warmth when the earth is still cool, blow life back into my soul while touching my cheeks with roses.  They blow away the soggy wetness from the melting snow and spring rains that washed off the filmy dust-dirt of winter, allowing the earth to be new again.

Soon the tree flowers will fall making rusty puddles on the path.  But today they are brilliant against the infinitely blue sky-simple, full of life, and beautiful.

Originally published on my old blogger site, April 2009

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