Celebrating Birthdays

Do you have a special tradition surrounding birthdays in your family? As a family we keep it very simple: family time, special gifts and special food, some friends. When I had only two children then I had little things that I liked to do for them on their birthdays: a string that led from their bed to their gift, with little messages of love tied to it along the way … picture clues to follow around the house and garden in order to find their birthday gift … fun things like that. And then our family got bigger and busier and birthdays slipped past without much acknowledgement for a while there.

With three children, I want birthdays to be special and treasured but at the same time I don’t want to make a big deal out of birthdays, and I don’t want to have to organise a party for each child every single year either. Because I am the one who does the organising. This was the first year I have ventured into an organised party for one of our children. The Lego party was a bit of fun, and we are having a little High Tea for my daughter and a couple of her kindy friends soon. It isn’t something I plan to do each year, but I had fun putting them together this time, particularly once I let go of the idea that every special person you know must come to the party and birthday parties must be held on or near the birthday! My son’s party was held two months after his birthday with a handful of his friends from school, and my daughter’s will be held nearly a month after her birthday, again with just a few of her chosen friends. I’ve also let go of the need to supply party bags – a small hand-made thank you gift perhaps .. but a bag full of lollies and cheap loot doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t like giving things to people if I know they are going to be broken or lost within the week.

Although we haven’t yet developed a consistent ceremonial tradition surrounding birthdays within our own family it is still a very special occasion. I do celebrate their birthdays at playgroup, and my children’s schools also hold special little ceremonies for them too, so we are well versed in ceremony design and preparation in this family! It was my own birthday recently and my daughter spent a long time preparing a special rainbow throne for me to sit on, inside a rainbow circle. She crowned me with a garland of flowers and gave me a fishing rod so that I could fish for my dreams, then the family sang our favourite birthday song. I was very touched at the care and attention my five-year old put into this – for me! Of course now I plan to re-write our playgroup birthday ceremony for next year to incorporate her fishing rod idea. Sweet child!

At the moment our playgroup birthday ceremony is short and sweet: with little ones aged between 1 and 5 years old, and with lots of birthdays to celebrate through-out the year the ceremony can’t be too complicated at playgroup. If they were all a bit older I would indulge some time in a story or a puppet show – my daughter’s kindy do a puppet show for every birthday and despite the fact that the children have seen it many many times, they still sit there spell-bound as the story unfolds. Birthdays are so very special and ALL the little gestures we make to a child on their birthday are remembered and treasured.

My birthday ceremony takes no longer than five minutes. Here it is: I lay a golden cloth over our circle mat and place a golden sun pillow in the middle. Upon the golden sun pillow is a rainbow crown. The birthday child can choose to sit in the middle and wear the crown or sit with their parent to receive the crown. As I sing the rainbow birthday song I wrote I unwind a long silk rainbow cloth (5m length) around the sun pillow. Then I sit down and invite my helper to wind the music box we have that plays “Happy Birthday”. It is so soft everyone has to be really quiet to hear the fairy music, then in our fairy voices we sing Happy Birthday to the birthday child. I light a candle kept in my basket, and they blow it out. That’s all! Then we go wash our hands to eat. Here we are with the gold cloth, golden sun pillow, the rainbow crown (which is made individually for each child as a gift) and the basket with the silk and other goodies.

RAINBOW BIRTHDAY SONG

written by Jennifer McCormack

Sliding down through red and orange

Feeling warm and loved

Sliding down through yellow and green

With wisdom from above

Sliding down through blue and indigo

With trust and hope I come

Sliding down through violet light

I’m safe in my new home

From the rainbow slide I land

In loving arms with loving hands

Held forever close and dear in my family

I am born a rainbow child

With many who love me.

Advertisements

Recipe: Allergy-friendly Birthday Cupcakes

Sharing a birthday treat at kindy or school is becoming a bit of a tricky issue. Most schools and kindergartens have a nutrition policy and ask for no chocolate and sugary treats. Then there are the children with food sensitivities, allergies and other special diets who always miss out on special treats at birthday celebrations. Being one of those people myself I always feel sad to see those children resigned to the fact that they’ll be missing out on the fun food 😦

Here is a recipe that should meet almost all the needs of your child’s friends at a birthday celebration! It has no eggs, dairy, refined sugar, nuts or gluten. It isn’t grain-free but grain-free usually means using nuts instead and nuts are often excluded from schools as part of an allergy management policy. The frosting I have used is made of fruit, dates, maple syrup and coconut oil, so no naughty ingredients there either, although if nuts are not an issue then adding some soaked cashews to the blender will thicken the frosting up and make it creamier too. The only naughty bit was the silver cashous on top 🙂

These cupcakes turned out quite moist and fluffy inside – for gluten-free cooking (or more specifically MY gluten-free cooking!) that’s a plus because I find gluten-free baked goods are often quite dry. The flax seeds are mixed throughout but don’t change the texture of the cupcake at all.

ALLERGY-FRIENDLY BIRTHDAY CUPCAKES

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS

1 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup maple syurp

1/3 cup coconut oil

2 tbs ground flax seeds

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp apple cider vinegar (I used home-made fruit scrap vinegar)

2 cups your favourite gluten-free SR flour (I use one without any soy or dairy)

FRUIT FROSTING INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup dried dates, soaked in hot water 10 minutes

1/2 cup coconut oil

1 cup frozen fruit defrosted to room temperature (I used cherries to make a dark purple icing)

METHOD

Mix all the wet ingredients plus the flax seeds. Allow the flax seeds to soak for 10 minutes or so. The flax seeds are acting as a binder and are replacing the egg in the recipe. You may need to add a little extra liquid after this stage, depending on the thickness of your mixture after the flaxseeds have gelled up.

Add the flour and mix well.

Spoon level to the top in muffin tins greased lightly with coconut oil and cook for 10 minutes in an oven preheated to 180C. They don’t go very brown on top/ When the skewer comes out clean they are cooked.  If the skewer still has mixture stuck to it, cook for another minute at a time until they are done. If overcooked they tend to dry out.

Allow to cool in the trays before turning out. This stops them from drying out.

While cupcakes are cooling, blend the frosting ingredients together and pipe on top of the completely cooled cupcakes. All ingredients should be at room temperature for the frosting otherwise the coconut oil will cool and clump instead of blending smooth. If it is a cool day and the coconut oil is solid to begin with, then cook all ingredients together for a little bit before you blend them. Decorate as you like then a bit of chilling in the fridge will set the icing. I’ve used dried rose petals and silver cashous.