Okay, people keep being startled that I did the desserts for 150 for the party, so here is a quick accounting of how to do such a thing and not completely melt down in the process:

a) Be on vacation, or a stay-at-home parent with kids in school, or just somehow not having a regular day job. If I’d tried to do this while holding down a 9-5 job, with commuting time and getting dinner and dealing with the kids and all, it would’ve been impossible.

b) Block out about 3 hours / day for a week for dessert-making. Starting two weeks ahead (or more) is less stressful.

c) Plan to make roughly one dessert per day, which means you have to think about what can be made:

– two (or more) weeks in advance (candies, caramels, truffles, sugar cookies, fruit cake, molded chocolate decorations)
– one week in advance (refrigerated mousse cakes, icing for sugar cookies)
– three days in advance (curd for lemon cake, sugared flowers)
– 1-2 days before (actual cakes you’re baking)
– day of party (whipping fresh cream for a berry shortcake)

I like to divide up my day of cookie baking with my day of icing cookies, because both are pretty time-consuming.

Allow time for cakes to cool before frosting — an hour in the morning for baking, an hour in the afternoon for frosting, an hour around for prep and clean-up.

d) About two weeks in advance, finalize your menu plan. I strongly recommend that everything on it is something you’ve made at least once before. My main frustration this time around was that I added the pink champagne cake which I hadn’t made before, and it had processes I wasn’t familiar with, which was a little stressful, and then I wasn’t thrilled with the final result, which was annoying.

e) Remember to shop! There is nothing more irritating than getting all set to bake and realizing you have no baking soda. Baking soda has been my downfall more than once, because you cannot substitute baking powder. (If, however, you need baking powder and don’t have it, you can combine baking soda with cream of tartar.) You can make a master list and buy everything in one go, or if you like little trips to the store / grocery delivery, you can buy what you need the day before each day’s baking.

Warn your household that if they consume your precious eggs / buttermilk / milk / butter that you will not be held accountable for the consequences.

f) Be sure you also have the tools you need — cake pans in the right sizes, cake circles in the right sizes, a sufficiency of measuring implements, etc.

g) Don’t be too perfectionist about it. You’re not a professional baker, and no one expects you to be. It’s okay if your cake is a little wonky, or if you’ve never mastered a smooth application of frosting (it’s me!) — people will love it because you made it, and because it tastes delicious.

Okay, that’s all I can think of right now. Feel free to add your own comments / suggestions below!

Starting summer

Okay, taking a break from photos and napping (was TIRED) to go have lunch with Jed and then sit in a cafe and try to power through a few hours of backlogged e-mail.
The next three days are for getting the house back in order, figuring out what I’ll be selling at the art show at WisCon (I just have a quarter table, because I wasn’t sure I was going, so didn’t reserve space in advance) and getting it ready, and dealing with e-mail, aiming for Inbox 0, which is going to take some serious work. It will ease my mind if I manage it, though.
This evening, I’m also going to see Ameya Pawar speak at L!ve Cafe (gubernatorial candidate for IL), and tomorrow evening I’ll be invested onto the library board and attend my first trustee board meeting. Thurs – Mon will be WisCon, and then I come home, probably collapse for a day, and then dive headfirst into a summer of novel writing.
That’s the plan, and it’s a good plan. We’ll see if I stick to it.


Feeling grateful that so many of the people we love (a hundred and fifty, counting about thirty kids!) were able to make it out last night. Friends from childhood, from high school, college, grad school, Connecticut, Hyde Park, Salt Lake City, Bay Area, and of course Chicago and Oak Park, and tons of family too.

Someone said that she wasn’t sure she could have gathered a hundred and fifty people together for this kind of thing — the thing is, there are so very many people we really like, and I, for one, am very resistant to letting anyone go. I tend to accumulate. 🙂 I just wish we could’ve invited everyone we would’ve liked to — there are only so many people we could afford to feed a fancy dinner to. Otherwise, we might have aimed for at least a few hundred more….

And even so, there were a few close friends and family who couldn’t make it. It’s always hard — life is so busy and there are crises and illnesses and scheduling complexities. There’s no way everyone would have been able to get here. So I’m raising a glass to absent friends this morning, hoping we can find a way to spend time together again soon.

Milestone anniversaries have a way of making you consider the scope of your life — what’s past, what’s to come. So I’m also thinking of a few who have gone much too soon — Jay, Aparna. Missing you. Sending you love.


In all the party hubbub, let us not overlook what an excellent job Anand did as a cow in The Little Red Hen. He said he was quite nervous, but unlike last year, he managed to look confident and calm, and sang & acted his part with enthusiasm. Props also to the first grade teachers for organizing this, as the costumes and production were adorable to the max!


“Kavi Acca, come here! Kavi Acca, read book! Kavi Acca, Kavi Acca, Kavi Acca…”
I am dying of the cute. Right now, they’re actually both demanding her attention, and one wants to be inside and one wants to be outside and they both want Kavi Acca to read them books, and she knows she’s supposed to keep an eye on the outside one, and she’s totally confused about what she’s going to do. Sharmi has told Kavi that she can make an executive decision as the Acca to either be inside or outside, but Kavi says that she’s tried that, but they won’t listen to her…

Blast from the past

Oh, it is a little surreal seeing old friends again after long absences. I’m glad people are staggering their arrivals somewhat, so I have time to actually talk to them. Tonight, Kira Berman arrived — only briefly, as she’s going on to a conference for a few days, and then coming back for the party. But we got the chance to catch up a little bit at least. It turns out that you can download quite a lot of your life in half an hour.