It's that time of the year...

It's that time of the year when everything else takes a back seat, when weeks feel like days, days like hours and hours like minutes slipping by. When things have to be planned and re-planned with precision clockwork leaving no chance for delays or mistakes. After all it's the most important time of the year - a time to single mindedly focus on bringing cheer and joy to two very special people in my life - it's my boys' birthday month!

While their actual birthdays fall on March 27th and 29th, the first thought on what's to be done for their birthday crosses my mind almost as soon as my birthday is over which is in early- January. Discussion, deliberation and ideas are thrown around and by the end of January I have a basic idea of what we would be doing for their birthday - the probable venue, date and of course the cake design! I must be sounding crazy with all my fervor and dedication for this 'cause', as my husband can never figure out what the fuss is all about. "You have two more months to go Mehroo, what's the big rush? Do we really need a party this year" he pleads, when I constantly ramble on with my thoughts about this topic. 

Ever since the boys turned one, I think we have almost always had a party. I remember the two occasions when we didn't - one when my younger son was born and the other when I cut my tendon in my thumb and had my hand in a splint. And why not I would say, after all I had birthday parties almost every single year growing up so I am just following my mother's footsteps!

In the beginning when the kids were still quite small, I was more than happy to hand over all the organising work to an external party. Be it an outside caterer on our building terrace, a local club or an indoor playground, I was happy to organise, co-ordinate and then just breeze in for the party with my toddlers in tow and enjoy the fun! It is only when my younger son turned 3 and the elder one 7, that I decided to take more of the reins in my hands. We lived in London at that time with a lovely back garden and a very convenient park right opposite the house. We always like giving combined parties for the boys which work very well and that year we had organised two different sets of activities for the boys. One played football with his friends in a nearby park with my husband being the referee while I entertained the 3 year-olds at home with games and music along with my mummy-friends! I was also brave enough to try out my hand at baking, baking a birthday cake for the very first time! One got Thomas the tank and the other a Dinosaur cake. My reward for weeks of planning and hard work was the smiles that I saw on my boys' faces as they cut their birthday cakes delighted with all the attention showered on them. After that there was no looking back!

After four years of 'home-made' parties, this year I am doing it outside once again. No I haven't got tired or bored, or lost interest in doing parties, it's just that the kids have grown up! No longer are my 'little ones' satisfied with just running around with their friends or kicking a ball in the park! They want more. So this year we have a bowling party for the younger lot and an indoor football party for my older son (yes that's this fourth football party!). While I gave up the home-made party bit, I am not giving up on the combined party, which does take a while to plan but it works best. I am not giving up on cake baking either - thankfully this one they don't want me to! 

Talk about cake baking. It's easier said than done. My hats off to all you home and professional bakers who make it sound so simple on google and who also give the much-needed encouragement and advice. Icing too dry, fear not, just add some water, cake split in two - no problem - just glue it up with buttercream! They are real life savers when you are in almost tears with a burnt or sunken cake at home. Since the actual party is at a club this year, I thought all I had to do was to focus on the cake. First finalise the cake base and the design, get approvals from the kids, then start the task of buying ingredients. Again going by the Hong Kong-size kitchen storage space, one cannot buy too much in advance, so you walk into the supermarket probably 3-4 days before baking. I would ideally buy everything a day in advance, but Hong Kong is never reliable with its stock availability on most things. If you do manage to find unsalted butter then you won't find icing sugar, if you do manage to get both, then you won't find enough boxes of self raising flour. I always end up doing three rounds to get everything that I need! This year I am going extra crazy with the number of cakes to bake. Two for the birthday party, two for our community party, and then 60+ cup cakes for classmates at school - all in one week! What with my part-time work every morning and the boys coming back from school by 3:30, it leaves me with a window of just 3 hours every afternoon. With a microwave cum oven and just enough  kitchen top space, baking can take a long long time, that's if there are no disasters and I did have one this time (not elaborating). Then of course dish washing at the end with lots of sticky butter cream to de-grease! I do watch you tube videos on how to bake and ice as revision before baking and I love to see the lovely innumerable different kinds of equipment that the chefs use, but I can bet that if they had to wash all those fancy tools themselves, they would use less than a half! I have even made myself a baking schedule this time so I can plan ahead and be more efficient! Maybe I should add timings to that sheet next time.

I know I know I am now making it sound all like a big task, like a MUST-DO, instead of a WANT-TO-DO. The stress, the pressure is a part of the job, but the final result is worth it all. Like I asked my son who turns 7 when he kept staring at his cake today "Do you like it darling?" "No Mummy" he replied still looking very serious, "I love it!" And he beamed! And so it will continue...that time of the year!

Dinosaur cake - waterfall and volcano were compulsory!

Wolverine on edible icing sheet

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