Family Matters,  party party,  Stealthy Spy Cooking,  Super Dad

Happy Birthday Toby

You know you’re a seasoned blogger when you’re bummed that everything turns out perfectly. It makes such a better story when life gets royally screwed up. Flat tire in the rain? Bring it on! Long lines at the DMV and an obnoxious clerk who gets your paperwork wrong and sends you to the wrong line where you waste your entire day? Yes! You can hear the chuckles from the cubicle walls already.

What’s the fun in a chocolate cake from a box mix that turns out perfect without any lumps or bumps? It isn’t lopsided, flat or burnt, the icing goes on smooth without ripping off the top layer of moist crumbs, and you even spell the birthday boy’s name right in soft light blue loopy letters!!! Snore. This is boring. At least bake a pacifier into the cake or slop some of that goopy pudding batter into Baby Bug’s ear or something. Sheesh!

Nope. Nothing hilarious happened. The cake was baked. The baby was securely fastened on like my personal little parasite. I didn’t bang her head on the oven door. I didn’t even make a mess with the eggs or chocolate powder mix. I had the whole day to plan out this little dinner shindig and everything went fine without a hitch.

It does, however, remind me of other shindigs that have gone down with lots of hitches. In fact, I’ve made many chocolate cakes (very much like this one), that turned into lopsided icing messes. I have no idea why the icing went on perfectly yesterday. I have never had such good luck before.

This all also reminds me of the first time Toby made me a cake. Way back when we were still dating (before the hills got dusty) and I had recently decided to turn away from my very tight knit family. I hadn’t spoken to my parents in months. It was a very very sad and lonely time for me. Especially on my birthday. Birthdays in my family were always grand events. Maybe because we didn’t celebrate Christmas we had to make up for it. (And no, my family isn’t Seventh Day Adventist…they’re just different.) There were always mountains of presents and any kind of dinner and cake your heart desired. The whole day was your day and I was pretty much the princess of the party every time my birthday rolled around. So you can imagine how pathetic I was feeling in my sterile white apartment in a new town with no family or friends or even a cat!

I decided to cheer myself up by making myself a cake. Chocolate of course. I’d never baked a cake by myself before. I was up to my ears in chocolate powder when Toby decided to drop by with some birthday flowers he’d picked from the city landscaping. He was so romantic back then… What I didn’t know about Toby then was that he was the master chemist. He took one look at me and my mess and quickly took over. All those years washing rat lungs in a lab taught him that me making a cake was a quick disaster. I know nothing about procedure, precision or orderlyness. I speed read, transpose numbers and skip steps. I talk a lot and get distracted and lose track of where I am. How many cups was that I just dumped into the bowl? I’m a wreck in the kitchen. Especially back then.

I think I fell in love with Toby when that cake came out of the oven. It smelled like cocoa heaven. I’d never seen a cake so beautiful outside of a magazine before. It was round without any sloping or bubbles that threaten to collapse into themselves. If food is the key to a man’s heart then chocolate cake is the key to a woman’s. Of course this is long before I discovered that Toby used to date a stripper, he smoked nearly a pack a day, he kept trash in his car a foot deep and he wears the same shirt for five days in a row*. But those were things I’d learn to love later.

*Not really. He’s just freaky with his clothes. If he finds a shirt he likes, he buys five of them. So it seems like he’s wearing the same shirt over and over. It drives me batty.


  • MKN

    Those itty bitty baby feet in white socks and little black mary janes? More delicious than chocolate cake.

    I could gobble them up whole.

    My two giant three year old boys make me wistful for your little bit of girly baby goodness.


  • Jessie

    Looks like a delicious cake. And how sweet of Toby to make that cake for you on your first birthday together. It looks like everyone was having a fun time last night and that Baby Bug was doted upon exactly like she should be :).

  • Suzanne

    Hi! I have been reading your Blog for a few months now..I am sure that you have heard this from many people but I wanted to tell you that your baby is just darling. She is beautiful and I can tell you are a wonderful mother…

  • aunt kathy

    yum!! that cake looks so delicious that it makes me want to go bake one! Happy b-day, Toby! Baby Bug is still as cute as ever.

  • BeachMama

    How awesome that your cake turned out perfect, sometimes it is just the weather or even how you are feeling that makes baking turn out or not. Glad it was enjoyed, now I am craving chocolate :)

  • beck

    Happy birthday Toby!
    Oh and Superman once bought 5 pairs of identical work boots. I think he’s on pair number 3 or 4 right now. But he doesn’t do that with clothes. Yet. =)

  • Lisa

    Oh my! I thought my husband was the only one who bought 5 of the same shirts and always looks like he is wearing the same clothes. Add the same shorts, pants, and shoes (oh yes he does)!

  • Heidi

    I always think Baby Bug looks so much like you, but there is no denying that she’s Tody’s daughter in the picture with both of them and the excellent cake. It’s just something about the expression.

  • josephine

    How funny! It’s from this old sunday school music tape my brother and I used to listen to all the time when we were kids. The album was called “Bullfrogs and Butterflies”. The phrase comes from a song about Noah. I googled it too and found this:

    “Way back when, before the hills got dusty, Old Noah started choppin trees. He got a great big plan from the Good Designer for a zoo that could sail the seas …”

    I can still hear the tune in my head. (

  • e.g. white

    Happy Birthday to Toby. We Adventist love holidays, especially birthdays. You got us confused with someone else. We might not dance or drink, but we love chocolate cake! Baby Bug is one cute little lady. Glad she has your fashion sense and not her daddy’s.

  • Kristin

    Gorgeous, the baby and the cake and I cannot believe you can bake cake with a wee baby, I can barely find time to stick my finger in the peanut butter jar.

    Happy Birthday to Toby!