Real Sweet: Banana Layer Cake with Caramelized Coconut Sugar Frosting

Well, I had all week to prepare for Clara’s birthday – only I don’t mean party prep. I’m referring to the allotted time required for me to accept that she is another whole year older. Already three.

Today she climbed on a stool with my old Canon Rebel around her neck and declared she wanted to take pictures of her salad. Later she perched on my lap and helped me make the selections for my organic seed order. She “works” on her toy computer and is an utter wiz in the kitchen already. Chip off the old block? It’s looking that way.

She’s incredibly decisive; knows precisely what she likes and does not like, and declared today’s recipe “The best cake I ever ate.” Oh Clara, you’re ever the charmer.

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Clara turns one {recipe: Apple Spice Cake with Maple}

apple cake for baby birthday

Clara turned one yesterday, and after seven years of robot cakes, Cars pinatas, and Lego gifts, we celebrated our very first ‘girl’ birthday. There were spring flowers and garlands of pink hearts, cucumber sandwiches and strawberry cake, and the cutest little guests decked out in hair bows and pretty dresses.

Clara’s birthday party felt like not only a celebration of her first year and the bright light that she is in our lives, but a lingering farewell to infancy. I can see it plainly now, she’s ready to be a little lady, whether I’m prepared for it or not.

In the days leading up to the party, I keenly felt this milestone and the significance of it. While she was busy demonstrating her newest skill set to me, I was having flashbacks to the day she was born and the intimacy between a mother and her newborn.

first birthday party ideas on

I needed to say good-bye to those precious early days that I cherish so much. I needed to spend a few hours cutting hearts out of paper and stringing them onto garlands while I mourned the end of baby baths in the sink, cozy afternoon naps on my chest, and teeny, teeny pink sleepers.

I blinked back tears when I frosted the layers of her cake, and let them flow freely when I hung newborn images of her in a garland; photos where she was so tiny, she rested comfortably between my shoulder and the crook of my arm. I sighed when I cut cucumber sandwiches into hearts, and eventually made my peace with the milestone.

By Sunday, her actual birthday, I was ready to party. So, apparently, was she.

First birthday ideas on

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A Robot Birthday Cake

My chubby-cheeked firstborn, my Noah, is seven. Yesterday we bounced balloons, cut cake, passed lemonade, and sang to celebrate another milestone, another year gone by. The signs are everywhere: his front tooth is lose, the cuffs of his favorite blue sweatshirt are creeping up his arm and he’s growing in every direction.

Around the table at his party, he deftly wielded an eight-inch serrated knife and carved up slices of birthday cake for each one of his friends. He served himself last. That, in itself, is a sure sign he is growing up.

I’ve already shared my tips for a simple kids birthday party, so I won’t go into detail on the decorations (none) or games (one enormous neighborhood treasure hunt), but I am excited to tell you about Noah’s cake. A homemade cake is an essential part of the birthday party, and this year’s theme was: Robot!

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Tips for a Simple Birthday Party for Kids

Seeing I’m at the 9-month pregnancy mark, I had no choice but to keep my Mateo’s birthday party very simple this year. Skipping a party was out of the question, as he was turning 4 and very much aware that his big day was coming up. He’s also our leap year baby, so the fact that this was his first ‘official’ birthday made it all the more special.

Birthday parties can be fun, inexpensive, and not overly complicated – an approach that fit the bill for me on this particular birthday. There were a few steps I took to simplifying the party, which I’ll share below. (A quick poll I took on Facebook showed that many of you were interested to hear how it went, so, voila!)

Just a quick note first, though. I seldom write about my children’s birthday parties because I find them a bit of a ‘hot topic’. Everyone has an opinion on the subject: must-have’s, do’s and don’ts, and the many expectations.

If you ask me, there are no cut and dried rules on how much sugar to serve, if there will be gifts or no gifts, goodie bags, Disney themes or hired clowns. I think just as every child is unique (and every budget, for that matter), no one should tell you how to customize your child’s party. So, no judging. Zilch!

In my home, I try to make the day as memorable as possible for the birthday boy, even if it means bending the whole foods/sustainable living/seasonal eating rules a bit. The parties are homemade, thoughtful, and we have a great time. What more is there?

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