Pupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (& Legally Blonde)

Today is a very special day.

Today, my light, my love, my furbaby, Edgar, turns three!!!

You know that scene in Legally Blonde where Elle is going through orientation at Harvard Law and introduces herself and Bruiser and says, “I’m Elle Woods. And this is Bruiser Woods. We’re both Gemini vegetarians!” I identify with that scene so much. (I actually identify with a lot of that movie and think it’s one of the best of our generation, but that’s another post for another time!)

I often talk about Edgar (duh), and I often repeat the phrase “We’re both brown-eyed Aries!” at some point during my monologue about my mutt. It is so fitting of who and how we are as a pair.

I know, I know, the shelter I got him from almost certainly didn’t know his exact birthdate. It’s highly possible/probable they just picked a date at random – but I’m sticking with March 23 as the day this world was graced with his presence. He’s too much of an Aries not to be. And I’m too far into my psychosis to be told otherwise.

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Lemon-Lime Bars (& understanding)

I’ve often been told I’m a very understanding person. While I can’t say that is true of every person or every situation, I certainly try to be. I try to see both sides, all angles, give the benefit of the doubt (sometimes to my own detriment).

Lemon Lime Bars

I think this can be (at least partly) attributed to my being the middle child. I have quite literally been stuck in the middle for majority of my life. It’s hard not to see both sides when you’re in between them.

But I wasn’t always the middle child. Oh no, for the first 5 years, 8 months, and 29 days of my life I was the baby.

Lemon Lime Bars

And then one cold December day in 1997 that all changed. My baby sister arrived. A belated Christmas gift, an early celebration of the New Year.

Lemon Lime Bars

And I. Was. Pissed.

Seriously. There are photos to prove it. Ones lovingly taken by my mom and stepdad, wishing to capture the moment our family grew, full of more people, more love. And I was having none of it. Nose red from crying, eyes still watery, I’m pouting beside the bassinet in nearly every picture. I sat there, stone faced, refusing to smile at this little bundle of joy that was clearly just around to usurp my title as the baby of the family, and with it all the benefits that being the baby offered.

Lemon Lime Bars

And boy did she benefit. In truth, we all did. Once my irritation waned and I accepted my new position as the middle child, it was noticeable that all of our lives had greatly improved. Because of her. I’m grateful for her arrival, her presence, for making me who I am, for who she is.

Lemon Lime Bars

My younger sister is intelligent, effervescent, and as strong-willed as they come. She has a loving and generous heart, capable of caring for anyone who crosses her path. Her work ethic is a rare find in most employed adults, and practically non-existent in kids her own age. She is funny, adventurous, and thoughtful. She’s the baby.

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Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast (& true friendship)

A lot can happen in a year. 365 short days of learning, loving, and, yes, sometimes, leaving.

As you’re aware, dates are significant to me. Parks and Rec is also significant to me. And when I start thinking back in time in terms of years, I think of a scene in season five where Leslie asks, “are you better off now than you were a year ago?” She’s presiding over a town hall meeting into the first year of holding a seat on city council. To Leslie, life has certainly improved – she’s accomplished goals and made strides in her personal and professional life. Despite what anyone else says, Leslie feels accomplished (at least at the start of the meeting, what the townspeople do is a whole other story).

Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast | via Midwest Nice Blog

And today, I had to ask myself, “Am I better off now than I was a year ago?”

Because today is Danielle’s birthday. And, much like dates and Parks and Rec, she is important to me. She is largely part of the reason that I am better off today than I was a year ago.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast | via Midwest Nice Blog

Danielle is supportive of her friends – really and truly. She’s also unflinchingly honest and unfailingly hilarious. She is one of the few people I have encountered who puts forth actual effort into her friendships, they are important to her and she makes it known. I was lucky enough to experience this while living in Greenville, and even luckier that she’s continued to consider me worth the effort after my move. We communicate in memes and 90-minute phone calls, discussing everything from celebrity pregnancies to international travel plans.

Honestly, I’m thankful that “the breakup” happened – because if it hadn’t, Danielle and I would not be as close as we are now. She had gone through a similar experience the year before me, walking the path ahead. She was able to ask the right questions (even the uncomfortable ones) and listen intently, offering help and advice, wise and insightful. Her queries led me to discover more of who I was outside of someone else – a mirror whose reflection I couldn’t look away from. This experience, her comfort and friendship before, during, and after it, have guaranteed that I am better off.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding French Toast | via Midwest Nice Blog

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Homemade Funfetti Cake

What was your favorite birthday?

Homemade Funfetti Cake | via Midwest Nice Blog

Was there a particular year or party or celebration that sticks out from all the rest?

Homemade Funfetti Cake | via Midwest Nice Blog

A friend and I were talking about this and I’d have to say my favorite birthdays thus far have been 7, 9, 15, 22, and 23. I’ve been very fortunate and have had some very good birthdays. Going to Shakey’s (think a Midwestern Chuck E. Cheese), swimming at the community pool, a surprise party, a perfect celebration where everyone left by 10:30, a piñata destroyed on stage at a local rock show.

Homemade Funfetti Cake | via Midwest Nice Blog

All wonderful times and days and memories. All for different reasons. Whether it was getting to help my mom bake and decorate my cake for the first time (maybe the start of my baking obsession?) or feeling I had found a family at college in my friends and coworkers who wished to celebrate me, I have loved my birthdays and what they have added to my life.

And I’m ready to see what 25 brings. Not just in terms of celebration, but internally, in my heart and mind and soul. Because, I can honestly say, that no matter how perfect the party or thoughtful the gifts, I have never been quite as content with a birthday as I am now, at this moment. Happy as a clam right where I am. There are new opportunities on the horizon, old friendships growing stronger, and a secureness that I have never experienced before. I have grown so much in the last year (excuse the humble brag, but I am awfully proud), I feel confident, calm, secure. Not all the time, but more so than I ever have before.

Homemade Funfetti Cake | via Midwest Nice Blog

Perhaps that’s why I was feeling gutsy enough to try my hand at a fan favorite. Funfetti cake has long been a birthday staple – in my life and the lives of my family and friends. There’s something special about that boxed cake that makes it better than any other. Sprinkles, obviously.

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Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting

March is apparently birthday month!

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | via Midwest Nice Blog

My birthday is at the end of the month. This week it’s my mentor/trainer Shawn’s. Edgar’s is next week. As well as my friends’ Kristen, Brittney, and Murissa. Last week it was my friend Keith’s (Hey, Towel Guy!) and the week before that, Scott’s. I got dozens of notices on Facebook of celebrations for friends from high school and college. So many Aries babies!

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | via Midwest Nice Blog

With all of the birthdays this month, it seemed only appropriate to share this cake. It’s what I picture in my mind when I think “birthday cake.” It’s what my dad always asks for come his special day is September (and what he’s actually argued for when he wants me to “bake something normal!” instead of experimenting). It’s what my friend James wants as his parting gift when he moves to Charlotte next month. It’s classic, it’s comfort, literally textbook birthday cake.

Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting | via Midwest Nice Blog

It’s yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Moist and sweet and easy as pie…err…cake…? With rainbow sprinkles.

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Browned Butter Salted Oatmeal Cookies

I love birthdays! Love, love, love them! The celebrations, the presents, the treats! Birthdays are days we get to unabashedly celebrate those that we love, one special day for one special person. Their lives make ours better and birthdays are when we get the chance to tell them so.

And today, we’re telling them with cookies.

Salty, crispy browned butter oatmeal cookies, to be specific.

I’ve been making these cookies for years, tweaking and testing the ratios of butter to browned sugar juuuuust right. And I nailed it.

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