cooking

How to Cook for Private Events Without Making Yourself Crazy

Image from Pixabay

I have been cooking for many years, ever since I was 12. I first discovered how much I enjoyed it when taking home economics in 7th grade.

Recent years, I have been cooking for many of my private events, such as birthdays. But the reason isn’t for health or money—it’s because I have a few friends with dietary restrictions. One who has come a lot is allergic to nuts and intolerant of soy. So, I have usually cooked the food from scratch, both the dinners and desserts.

I am turning 27 on the 22nd of this month. Because my friend with the nut allergy didn’t come, I could order a cake as well as dinner. I did cook a pasta dish with garlic and oil for another friend, who is voluntarily vegetarian, although we ended up not serving it. 

But last year, for my birthday, I cooked all day for the party. I did not even get a chance to eat lunch. So, for my birthday party next year, I will cook only one thing: a pasta dish. I will also serve premade bread and butter along with salad. If the friend with the nut allergy comes, I will make the cake, filling  and frosting from scratch. Or I will make a pull-apart cupcake cake.

The lesson I learned is less can be more for food at parties. Although my parents are health freaks, and my dad has enforced protein at every meal, especially when I was younger, I can rebel against that for events. I would gladly order pizza, but I am allergic to tomatoes. I developed the allergy in 2017, right after graduating from college.

Anyway, if possible, cook only a little bit or not at all. If you have to cook, then pick up to a few items that are not super involved. It’s not the end of the world if you have a guest with a dietary restriction and you need to accommodate him or her. If their food intolerance or allergy isn’t too severe, then it’s okay to serve something with the ingredient they can’t have as long as you tell them. 

I hope this helps.

cooking

Cake-Decorating Techniques I’m Glad I Learned

Image from Pixabay

I’ve been baking and cooking since I was 12. I’ve also learned to decorate cakes and other baked goods around that age. Of course, I struggled several times, especially in the early days.

However, I’ve been making a lot of my own occasion cakes in recent years, because one of my friends is allergic to peanuts. Unfortunately, many bakeries aren’t nut-free, including near where I live. In fact, although I reside outside New York City, allergy-friendly bakeries are rare.

Nevertheless, I still enjoy my homemade cakes and cupcakes. The interest worked out very, very well. So, without further ado, here are the techniques I am thankful for learning.

1: Crumb-coating

This is when you put a plain layer of buttercream all over the cake and put it in the refrigerator to cool. That way, you don’t end up with crumbs in your icing. That is when you put the next layer over it and you can be free to do what you want. This might not work for whipped cream frosting, though.

2: Whipped buttercream technique

You do the usual for making buttercream icing, but add extra milk (a little at a time), and whip with an electric mixer for as many as seven minutes or so. That way, your buttercream can turn out similarly to whipped cream icing. There are a few reasons it might work. One, colors tend to come out bolder in butter cream than whipped cream. Two, writing on a cake is easier with better with buttercream than whipped cream. Three, there is a special trick to whipped cream icing that keeps it from sinking into the cake. That is adding unflavored gelatin to hot water, letting it cool, and then incorporating it into the whipped cream. It’s fine, but a little more work, depending on your needs or desires.

3: Less can be more

Good cake designs don’t always have to have lots of decorations. In fact, a minimal amount can be just as beautiful, if not, more. That’s what happened when I prepared for my 26th birthday party in November 2019. I had a lot of cooking to do, so I just made simple flower-like borders around the cake’s exterior (not attached), wrote “Happy Birthday, Sunayna” with buttercream on a piece of white chocolate, and that was it. It still looked great.

So, there you have it. I hope this helps.

fiction

Unlucky Twelve: A Flash Fiction Piece

Image from Pixabay

Days like this make me want to cry. It was my twelfth birthday and I’d hoped for a fantastic time.

            However, instead things had gone wrong. I’d received my math test back with a grade of fifty—an F. Another thing that’d ruined my birthday had been when I’d fallen down on the basketball court and my pants had come down a bit. Everybody had laughed at me.

            My parents had lectured me about the failing grade I’d earned on my exam. I’d even cried after. They’d yelled, too.

            Who’d want to spend their birthday in misery? Yes, there were people who’d had worse birthdays, such as Shakespeare. He’d actually died on his birthday.

            Still—this is a day I wanted to forget. My older brother had been treated nicely on every birthday he’d had that I could remember, including his twelfth.

            Yes, turning twelve wasn’t as significant as turning thirteen, when you actually became a teenager and could do teen activities. You also could no longer be considered a little kid.

            If my twelfth birthday hadn’t gone right, I could only hope that my thirteenth one would turn out better—a lot better.

            In fact, my parents hadn’t gotten me a cake tonight. Why? Not because of my poor math test grade. But because they’d been busy supporting my brother at his basketball tournament. So, they’d forgotten.

            A few people at school had wished me a happy birthday here and there. But overall, I wish I could have my memories of this day wiped and not remember a single thing.

            Maybe I could have a party at some point later. I hadn’t thought about doing something. But perhaps that could make my mood better. I would have to come up with an idea. Then I, Ally Preston, would feel happier.

fiction

If You Gave Your Mom a Snake Party: A Flash Fiction Piece

I don’t know about you, but my mom is super-grossed out by snakes. She has freaked out around them every time.

            A few memorable times include my brother’s eighth birthday party, when he got his picture taken with a snake around his neck. My mother ran away, saying, “Ew, ew, gross,” several times.

            Another moment that stands out to me is when we were buying food and supplies for our dog. The cashier had a tiny snake around his fingers. My mom asked if it was fake or real. The guy said, “It’s real.” My mother freaked out.

            The event that stands out to me the most is when we watched the news and they announced a snake massage at a zoo in Australia. My mom sent me the link to my email. Her personal message was, “Ewwww! Gross!” It cracked me up so much that I almost lost my breath.

            Anyway, last year, I thought it would be funny to throw my mom a snake-themed party for her birthday. I decorated the house with snake streamers, snake-balloons, jungle trees with fake snakes, and a game called pin the rattle tail on the rattlesnake.

            So, I invited some friends and family to our house. When my mom came, we all yelled, “Surprise!” My mother was speechless when she saw the snake decorations. She said to me, “Rayna, you know I don’t like snakes.”

            But the funniest part of all was when we sang “Happy Birthday” and I carried a cake—that resembled a live snake—literally. My mom deepened her frown, making the inside of her bottom lip come out. My brother videoed the whole moment. Everyone kept singing as my mother looked more grossed out than ever. After we sang, I told my mom to make a wish. But she was too grossed out to blow out the candles. My brother laughed. He blew them out instead.

            The inside of the cake was red velvet filled with cream cheese. My mom wouldn’t eat the cake.

            While I planned to consider the party a silly prank, my mom banned us from hosting her surprise parties ever again. She then gave us a lecture on how a snake-themed party was very inconsiderate. From that point on, I learned to respect her dislikes, including snakes.

            My mom is fine with turtles. But I will not buy her a turtle gift for her next birthday, Christmas, or any other occasion. I promise to treat her birthdays with respect and consideration from now on.

fiction

Rudy’s Racoon Birthday Bash: A Short Story

My brother, Rudy, turned six today. Unlike many people, Rudy admired racoons. That’d led him to wanting a racoon birthday party.

            I’d assisted my mom in buying supplies, such as those racoon hats. The party stores sold no racoon balloons, plates, or anything related to them. So we had bought black and silver balloons and had placed racoon faces on them—printouts from the internet.

            Rudy had also wished for a pin-the-tail-on-the-racoon game. So my mom had made that on her own.

            We set up the house. My mom had asked me to assist in the event, even though my friend, Alice, had invited me to her pool party.

            At fourteen, that intrigued me more than a small child’s birthday bash with an unusual theme.

            The doorbell rang. Rudy’s friends showed up and put on the racoon hats. Then they ran around.

            Once all the little kids arrived, my mom said to me, “Esme, you’re in charge of the kids.”

            “Why? What are you doing?”

            “I’m teaching you responsibility.”

            I blushed, recalling the poor grades I’d received in school that’d almost made me fail eighth grade.

            As Rudy’s friends played the games, Alice called me.

            “I can’t talk right now.”

            “I’m going away tomorrow and won’t be back for two weeks.”

            “Alice, I already told you that I can’t make it.”

            A boy fell and cried.

            “I’ve got to go.” I hung up and rushed over to the kid. “What happened?”

            “I tripped,” he sobbed.

            “Hang on, I’ll get you a Band-Aid.” I hurried to the bathroom, only to run into my mom, who walked out.

            “Who’s crying?” my mother asked.

            “Dylan,” said Rudy.

            “Where was Esme when this happened?” asked my mom.

            “Talking on the phone with her friend, Alice,” Rudy answered.

            My mom glared at me as I gave Rudy a dirty look.

            “Esme, I told you to look after them,” my mother said.

            “I’m sorry. But Alice was the one who called me.”

            “Give me your phone.” My mom held her hand out.

            I gave it to her and dragged my feet into the room.

            “You’ll get it back after the party.”

            I flushed and gave Dylan the Band-Aid. “All right, who wants to play a game where you don’t run around?”

            The children groaned.

            “We can come up with something.” I gasped. “How about arts and crafts?”

            “Can it be about racoons?” Rudy asked.

            “Yes, but let your friends make whatever they want too.”

            I gathered some paper, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, and googly eyes. Then I brought it to the playroom.

            “What can we make?” asked Dylan.

            “Anything you want,” I answered. “Just be careful with the scissors and don’t run with them. No grabbing things from the other children, no coloring on anything other than the paper, and clean up after you’re done.”

            The kids engaged in drawing, coloring, cutting, and pasting. They made rainbows, houses, butterflies, and other cute creations.

            After they tidied up, they showed my mom their crafts.

            “Very nice, everyone,” she said. “Did Esme watch you?”

            They all said that she did.

            “She helped us,” said Rudy.

            “Wow.” My mother turned to me. “Thank you, Esme.”

            “You’re welcome.”

            I assisted in serving pizza, cake, and goodie bags. Then my mom returned the phone to me. Alice had texted me.

My pool had an issue. So we can’t swim today. Do u want to come in 2 weeks?

I replied.

Yes. TY so much. See u then.

“Thank you for helping out today, Esme,” my mom said.

“Thank you,” Rudy added.

“You’re welcome.” I grinned.

art

Mini Art Show: Birthday Card Design

 

sale birthday card 1

It’s my birthday this Thursday, November 22nd (whoo!). I’ll be turning 25.

So in honor of that, I decided to post a birthday card design that I made myself. That’s right. I illustrated the cupcake and decided on the text font, color, sizes, and alignment, based on my graphic design studies and greeting card research. I did this in Photoshop, but the cupcake image was hand drawn. I then retraced and colored it on the computer.

I chose pink since it is a light color and expresses (usually) positive feelings. And birthdays are often associated with positivity, such as a time to celebrate. Of course, as much as we’d all wish, birthdays are not always happy. I, myself, have had some miserable birthdays throughout my life.

But that’s a different topic. Anyway, I decided to make the cupcake look cartoony and give it eyes and a smile. It adds a very energetic feeling that makes many think partying rather than a more realistic or soft style, which would make a lot of people think sophisticated, relaxed, and quietness.

The text was done in a serif font (which is when the letters have tails at the ends of their lines compared to sans serif fonts, like Helvetica) because I wanted to add a little bit of sophistication and have it resemble the way letters are often styled on cakes. Bakeries may exclude the fancy style of writing on the cakes, but it varies. I never really paid much attention to the style of writing on cakes.

However, I do notice that fancier calligraphy is common on occasion cakes, especially for formal events, such as sweet sixteens, mitzvahs, and other catering events. I live in New York on Long Island, and while many other parts of the country usually only use catering halls for weddings, where I live, people do them for other milestones.

Anyhow, the “You” is large because I felt that it would make the word feel more personal to the birthday person. I’ve even had the cards printed and provided them to my friends for their birthdays. One person has complimented on the design looking professional.

Note, that this was not a college assignment. I chose to do this on my own. I thought it would be fun as well as a way to hone my graphic design and illustration skills. I even have this image on my online portfolio along with other independent art.