Category Archives: Cake or Death

Surviving Five

Alvie Bean turned five on Saturday. Because I have clearly lost my mind, I agreed that he could have a birthday party. And invite a bunch of friends. And they could come to our house.

Due to a frosting fuck-up, Alvie and I had to make a run to the store for *gasp!* store-bought frosting. I know–I am deeply ashamed. (I should’ve made the frosting the day before and thrown it in the fridge, but nooooo….)

Even with the inferior frosting, the cake turned out pretty okay, I think.

There were approximately 100 (or roughly a dozen) kids between the ages of 2-7 at our place for two hours. They shrieked and yelled and ran and ate and played and fought and had a delightful time.

There was a piñata!

And a “pin the pokeball on the charizard” game (I got zero pictures of that). And, of course, cake.

And presents. And rooms full of feral monkeys. (One parent, after peeking into L’s room, said “It’s like Lord of the Flies in the there.”)

Overall, I think a good time was had by all. Even me, once I finally got to drink that glass of wine I poured.

After the excitement wound down and the birthday boy was released from his room for a post-party cat-kicking attempt, the Beer Guy and I took Alvie out to dinner. (The Bean is enamored of the Beer Guy. “I’ll have water to drink, because that’s what C is having.” or “I used to like Ninjago, but now C & I prefer Pokemon.” or “We’re going to build the Burj Khalifa together and we will not need your help, Mommy.”)

It was a lovely weekend (the Burj Khalifa did, indeed, get built by my two favorite guys with zero assistance from me). Alvie got so many lego sets and drawing kits and spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning working on his first still life.

Still Life with Beer Bottle

“Mommy – please put this picture on the internet so I can be a famous still life artist.”

My boy has grown up so very much, but, as he told me this morning on the way to preschool, “Mommy, you can still call me ‘baby’ sometimes. Just not in front of my friends.”

Okay, baby…I’ll try to remember.

Freshly hatched (April 2012)

First Birthday – just getting into that whole “walking” thing

2nd birthday – he’s always liked drawing…

My Alvie-saurus in the Dinosaur Train birthday shirt for his 3rd birthday

4th Birthday boy prepping for his train party…

And now, so very big. He’s grown up so much in the last year.

This kid…my heart.

Shenanigan Report-40th Birthday Edition

Saturday night was my birthday party. As per usual, I took almost zero photos. However, I did get pics of the important things: the pre-party shower wine, the Parmesan cheese I made, and the most epic cake in the history of cakes.

Bendy straw wine! Perfect for showering.

Seriously the best cheese I’ve ever made. It was perfect for snacking and now will be utilized as a grating cheese…I am super proud of myself.

Look at this magnificent cake that my friend Melissa made for me? How could it get any better than this?

I’ll show you how it can get better…

Seven-layer rainbow cake. Melissa is a goddess.


I had such a wonderful party and it was so good to have most of my favorite local people come out to celebrate turning forty.

We ended up not doing the piñata, because doing something like that inside sounded dangerous and outside it was pretty soggy and dark. Current plan is to destroy Trappist (the unicorn piñata did get a name at the party, and you can decide for yourself whether or not it refers to a star or a monastic order) sometime this summer. Although I might just keep him forever. (The beer guy might have something to say about that, I suppose.)

Trappist is hard at work earning his keep.


Now that I am 40 years and 3 days old, I’m feeling infused with wisdom. The main focus of that wisdom is that I need to make self-care a priority. I started my day with a fruit and spinach smoothie. I will go out for a walk/run in about an hour. I will eat lunch today and every day. I will get to bed at a reasonable time so I can get up and be productive at a reasonable time.


Last, but certainly not least – guess what tomorrow is??????????


That’s right – tomorrow you can get your grubby little hands on a copy of The Cardinal Gate. (You can also pre-order today, and the ebook will just appear in your Kindle app tomorrow like magic! The paperback is also now available for pre-order, but that doesn’t probably appear like magic in your home tomorrow. Probably.)

The Cardinal Gate is also available on Nook, iBook and Kobo.

Buy it, rate it highly, tell your friends, and – if you must – read it.


40 Before 40 – Final Progress Report

I will be forty in 23 days. TWENTY-THREE. DAYS.

There are days that I feel old, but most of the time I have trouble reconciling the number forty with how I feel.

The last thirteen months have been some of the hardest of my life. Between separation, divorce, job loss, and no job found…it’s been stressful to say the least.

I didn’t get through my list of 40. Some of that is due to financial constraints (I shot my wad on the big one – going to Iceland) and some is due to the inability to do things because of depression and anxiety.

You know what, though? I don’t care. There were some stretch goals on there. I’m not going to rehash everything I didn’t do, but I’m going to show you what I did do.

  1. Attend a live concert
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Go to the local nude beach
  4. Go to the opera
  5. Sing a new song at karaoke
  6. Take a barre class
  7. Take a cooking class
  8. Funky hair color
  9. Try hot yoga
  10. Volunteer
  11. Do a fun thing with Bean every day of his summer vacation
  12. Rosé in the garden in July
  13. Make a cheese that needs to age 10 months and eat it on my 40th birthday
  14. [Redacted]
  15. Become passable in Swedish (I’m still doing lessons!)
  16. Develop a habit of meditation
  17. Get back into my DIY habits –bread, stock, cheese, jam, etc.
  18. Perfect the homemade pie crust.
  19. Take a good photo
  20. Try 12 new cheeses
  21. Drink a bottle of expensive champagne
  22. Get a stamp in my passport
  23. Meet three ‘in the computer friends’ in real life. (Still waiting on my PSM)
  24. Publish my first book – this should happen this month or very soon after depending on how long it takes me to format stuff. (If anyone is interested in an ARC, let me know!)

So – twenty-four of forty things. That’s not a great success rate, but I’m really happy about how much I managed to do even when I was so anxious I could barely leave the house. I don’t plan on hitting any of the missing 16 items in the next 23 days. My primary goals for February are to get my book out and find a goddamn job. Oh – and to turn 40. Of course.

Don’t worry – I have a whole list of things I’m planning on accomplishing in the next year (although maybe not 41 things…). Stay tuned for all the ways I’m going to be awesome next year.

Happy Birthday to ME!!!!!!

It’s my birthday! Hooray!


I love my birthday. It is the only day of the year I really want someone to bring me cake. Last year, my cake was provided by my friend Jamie. HOWEVER, I’m guessing she’s not planning on a surprise trip back from Boston for the sole purpose of bringing me cake and gin, so it’s possible I might have to do without this year.

True story: one year, my then-roommate, knowing that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, got me a cheese cake. Literally a giant block of cheese (colby jack) that she put candles in. Marcy is awesome. HOW DO I NOT HAVE PICTURES OF THAT? And how is that not a bigger thing on the internet? Google image search has let me down. A cake that looks like a cheese is not the same thing.

It IS super cute, though...

It IS super cute, though…

ANYWAY. Birthday. Mine. Today.

I am 39! (I know, I know, I don’t look a day over 29. I have discovered the fountain of youth – and it’s insomnia and beer.)

Kinda want to do this at my next summer party...

Kinda want to do this at my next party…

I’m starting my last full year in my 30s! I’m not particularly bothered about turning forty. It’s certainly better than not (unless, of course, my aging was arrested by an extremely…friendly…vampire).


AHEM! Where was I?

Oh right, my #40before40 list.


  1. Attend the ballet
  2. Climb a tree
  3. Go ice skating
  4. Go to a book signing
  5. Go to the local nude beach
  6. Go to the opera (Sweeney Todd in June? Anyone?)
  7. Sing a new song at karaoke
  8. Take a barre class
  9. Take a dancing class
  10. Take a cooking class
  11. TEMPORARY funky hair color (holla Danny!)
  12. Throw pottery (on a wheel)
  13. Try a pole dancing class at the studio down the street.
  14. Try hot yoga
  15. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity – signed up for a 5/21 volunteer date!
Gonna build a house with Jimmy in May!

Gonna build a house with Jimmy in May!


  1. Do a boudoir photo session
  2. Do a fun thing with Bean every day of his summer vacation (a few ideas: Zoo, OMSI, roller skating, rock climbing, art museum).
  3. Host a wine tasting (mmmm…rosé in the garden in July? Who’s in?)
  4. Make a cheese that needs to age 10 months and eat it on my 40th birthday
  5. Take the Bean fishing
  6. Whale watching
Funny story! I went whale watching in LA once. I was told there were whales. I spent the whole trip vomiting over the side of the boat. Let's hope round two goes better.

Funny story! I went whale watching in LA once. I was told there were whales. I spent the entire trip vomiting over the side of the boat. Let’s hope round two goes better.


  1. [Redacted]
  2. Become a proficient knife thrower (i.e. hit the target more often than not)
  3. Become passable in Swedish
  4. Develop a habit of meditation
  5. Learn 100 ASL signs
  6. Get back into my DIY habits – I used to do a lot more homemade stuff. I’m thinking of doing more of the following: make my own bread, stock, cheese, jam, salsas, etc. I might not dive back into my smoked meat projects that I was doing before I had a Bean.
  7. Perfect the homemade pie crust. (Find volunteers to eat and critique all the pies.)
  8. Read one prize-winning (any major prize) book each month
  9. Run a 5K, a 10K and a half marathon. Bonus: run something longer!
  10. Take a good photo and pay to have it framed
  11. Try a new (to me) cheese each month
  12. Write 150 blog posts (more is better, but I only wrote 75 last year [SLACKER], so I don’t want to get TOO ambitious)
So many cheeses, so little time...

So many cheeses, so little time…


  1. Drink a bottle of expensive champagne (this will happen on March 2)
  2. Get a stamp in my passport (I have plans for this fall!)
  3. Give a $100 tip on an inexpensive meal (hat tip to Danielle!)
Iceland - I will be in you!

Iceland – I will be in you!


  1. Feel good about my fitness level and appearance
  2. Get better at self care. That means eating regularly; exercising regularly; sleeping regularly. It also means I need to learn to let it go (sing it with me now)…specifically work drama. Repeat: “It’s not me, it’s them…” (Also, self forgiveness…so even if I don’t get every single one of these ambitious goals [I misspelled ambitious so badly that my spell check suggested I met calamitous – touché], I am still a winner.)
  3. Meet three ‘in the computer friends’ in real life. (I’m looking at you  Cat, Elizabeth, and…[insert your name here!])
  4. Publish my first book
Because I AM a winner, dammit!

Because I AM a winner, dammit!


Every month on the 24th, I’ll give a brief update on my progress. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a very expensive bottle of champagne to procure.

happy birthday amy




March 2014 Goals

Apparently I like to give the month a good start before reviewing old goals and posting new ones.

February 2014 Goals

  1. Run 50+ miles – FAIL! I have a ton of excuses: sick baby, snow days, sick baby…but the reality is I just wasn’t committed to it. Oh well.
  2. Write 25K+ words (this will be a slog, as today was the first day this month that I’ve written) – SUCCESS! Much easier to write than run on snow days and during sick baby nap times. Also, this is my primary commitment outside of work right now – and it shows. Seriously. I get up b/w 5 & 5:30 each morning to do this.
  3. Wash face each  night before bed (part of the good habits) – FAIL! But at least I’m staying on the flossing band wagon.
  4. 40+ oz/day of water AT HOME. – SUCCESS! I have been a water-drinking super start.
  5. Surpass 200 miles on my trip to Mordor. – So close, I’m calling it a SUCCESS! I made it to 198 and change by the end of 2/28. Less than 2 miles short of 200 for the year equals a win for me. Also makes me realize that I would’ve kicked my goal’s ass if I’d run more.
  6. Do something brave (like trying a new class or talking to a stranger) – SUCCESS – kind of. I signed up for something AND paid money for it, but it doesn’t actually start until 4/5/14. I have an entire month to gird my loins for talking to strangers.
  7. Have a fantastic birthday weekend. – mostly SUCCESS! The architect and I had a baby-sitter on the 22nd, and went out for dinner and drinks. I had a fantabulous 10 mile trail run on my birthday (in the very, very cold rain) and then a birthday burger and a partial birthday beer. I had to leave the bar to go pick up the feverish, double-ear infectioned baby.
  8. Institute Sunday Funday with the Bean. (Those are the architect’s long ride days as he gears up for his fourth Reach the Beach century ride, so the Bean and I will have longer and longer periods to ourselves.) – EHHH….between the sick and the weather, this was not terribly successful. We did, however, play in the snow a lot.
  9. Buy a bottle of whiskey. – SUCCESS! I am the proud owner of some 20-year Tullamore Dew. I have even had 2 fingers of it. Each sip makes me do this:
  10. Whiskey FaceKeep my action item folder down below 30 items at the end of each day. – unmitigated SUCCESS! I feel so much more productive at work.

March 2014 Goals

  1. Write 30,000 words
  2. Date night with the architect.
  3. Run 10 times
  4. Take the Bean swimming
  5. Fun weekend with my mom.
  6. Worry less. Still working on how to do this. Suggestions?
  7. Get ahead of my to do list at work.
  8. Diligently work on my whiskey appreciation plan.
  9. Order a gluten free birthday cake for the Bean
  10. No desserts, sweet coffees, or other extraneous sugars for 30 days.

I cannot wait for this month to be over!