Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Heavenly Desserts

Last night, we took the kids to Pure Bliss Desserts on Cornwall Avenue just a few doors down from the Pickford. Have you been here yet? It just opened two weeks ago. I highly recommend it, especially for older kids (and younger kids who enjoy acting grownup for an hour).

My husband admitted it was a bit froofy for his taste, and, yeah, it does have a sophisticated feminine appeal with a black and pink theme throughout that Leah and I particularly liked. But the chocolate trumped any décor opinions. You can order yourself a hefty slice of chocolate cake big enough for two or three, although my kids put serious dents in their slices before they asked for help. My favorite was the peppermint patty chocolate cake, but there’s also creamy coconut (next time) or German chocolate or triple chocolate or… if you’re not a fan of chocolate, try the gourmet cookies and dessert bars. I’m betting the choices change often, but I forgot to ask. Anyway, it’s all great.

And, for the best of all worlds, Chocolate Necessities is right next door. After we ate our cake, we stopped in to see what they offer—we never managed to visit while they were at the Public Market—and we taste tested their yummy gelato. Have you seen the chocolates here? How did we not know about them until last night? They are pure artistry at work: chocolate high-heeled pumps, instruments, dogs, motocycles, turkeys, and the quaintest little cottage you ever did see.

So if you’re looking for a special treat with your kids (or without them), I recommend dessert at this pair of delectable Bellingham establishments. And for those who don’t live here, well, you’ll just have to come visit.

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Über Cake

This is the cake I baked for Leah’s 12th birthday party this weekend. It’s out of Leah's cakeFamilyFun, the “Wonderland” cake that is supposed to be topsy-turvy, and which I think would be more aptly named the “Dr. Seuss” cake.

I don’t consider myself one of those super mom types. I hate crafts and I never cook gourmet meals. But I do come from a family who has always prioritized birthday cake—the birthday person’s favorite, always from scratch, with fillings and icings, and very nearly always ringed by fresh flowers, my mom’s personal touch. A lot of work went into those cakes.

In my twenties, my job of choice turned out to be, uh, baker. My first job, when I was nineteen, included being promoted to bakery manager and frosting a birthday cake, rosettes and all, on the first day of my new promotion with no absolutely no idea what I was doing (I practiced a lot on the counter). The cake was a success. Everything after that was…well, cake.

And here I am carrying on the family cake tradition. But this cake, it was intimidating. Not the design, but the work involved (including buying three new cake pans, it turns out, and enough ingredients for a vat of cream cheese frosting) and the time it would take to put it all together.

But when Leah asked, well, I love a good cake challenge. How else can I explain my madness?

I did take a shortcut, though, not revealed until Sunday afternoon, after all the party-goers had gone home (sleepover party), and my just-arrived sister was eating a piece of said cake.

“This is great,” she remarked.

“It’s a mix,” I admitted.

Sitting beside her auntie, Leah stared at me, eyes wide, appalled. “It’s a mix?”

My kids do not do mix cakes. Unlike my childhood self, who didn’t mind a good mix cake because I liked light rather than dense (and our family’s cakes were good but always dense), my kids shun mixes. They recognize color and taste from a mile away and consider mixes the ultimate birthday insult.

And I don’t go for them myself these days, but so many kids grow up with these kinds of cakes and don’t appreciate scratch cakes, that I have shoveled way too much uneaten cake into the compost. So I have been known to resort to mixes for parties. When I could get away with it. Like once. Maybe twice.

Then last year I found an organic brand I could buy that my kids liked and never suspected was a mix. Really, the mixes are that good. And the perfect solution for the three, yes, three, batches of batter required for this cake.

Leah never knew until that moment. I think she forgave me. She’s still eating cake every night for dessert.


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Baking Trend

Lately, with Wall Street doing its thing, I seem to be baking more. Not as a comfort measure, like I usually do, although who can complain about the smell of pumpkin bread wafting through the house on a cool October day, but as a calculated way to save money on store-bought cookies.

I admit, this could be less about Wall Street and more because somehow I inadvertently scheduled the family’s dentist appointments all within a two-week period and our entire discretionary income this month has gone straight to our dentist (we don’t have dental insurance). Also the four stitches I got that Sunday at the walk-in clinic, whose bill somehow came due at the same time (yes, we have health insurance but we still manage to pay an inordinate amount out of pocket).

But even though I won’t be writing checks to the dentist next month, I feel a shift in myself, a new way of looking at the cost of living, as, every morning, I read the news about the Wall Street debacle yet again and the Dow bouncing around and references to 1931 and such. Although we haven’t been personally affected on a daily level in our house (we have yet to read our stock statements), the shift I feel is this: the urge to cut back on optional spending, hunker down, protect what we have, live well within our means, make do. Right now I’m thankful we don’t have more house than we can afford, though as recently as last summer I was known to complain there’s nowhere for the kids to go play except their rooms. Right now, having a room feels like plenty.

When I was a kid, my family lived on much less than we do now. My parents were experts at living on not very much, and one of the ways they saved money was on processed, packaged food. In other words, we didn’t have it around. We had to make stuff from scratch. Hence, my new habit of baking, which is actually an old habit I took up at the age of 7 so we would have tasty treats in our house. (No, not really—my mom baked a great rhubarb cake. I think I took it up because I loved doing it, but having lemon bars around was fun, too.)

Not that I don’t bake now, but I’ve gotten lazy with those endless school lunches. But now with the economy such as it is, baking feels like something I should be doing as a matter of course, not as something fun on a rainy afternoon. Bypass all those processed products, right? Cook from scratch for your health. And I do mostly, but I’m still a sucker for convenience, because, well, it’s just so easy when you’re in a jam, and it’s fun—my kids think so, anyway—and I like the option of buying these things even I choose not to, and I especially love, I’ll just say it, Costco. Being frugal all the time is just kind of painful.

But there’s that shift thing I keep feeling, and all those checks I’ve already written. So yesterday, when I was grocery shopping (not at Costco), I consciously stuck to my list—no impulse buys at all—and also bypassed those packaged things that I’ve been known to put in my kids’ lunches like fruit cups, individual fruit leathers, granola bars, and the like. And what you know, that grocery bill was small, about half of what it usually is. Less than I expected, even. Wow. Gotta like it.

Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still run into me at Costco, probably next week after payday. And I don’t plan to start baking bread anytime soon. If I start baking bread, you’ll know the economy is truly in the toilet. But that careful shopping thing is still with me…

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