Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On birthdays and crazy squirrels

Warning: This is a long post so I'd get some snacks before you start reading if I were you.
Birthday Chocolate Charlotte
So, think the picture above and the one below have nothing to do with each other? Well you'd be right, and you'd be wrong, let me explain.  
Today is A.'s birthday and though this isn't "the" cake I made for him for today, it gives you a good idea of the ones I did make that you will see a bit later on this blog. This cake is a birthday cake too, so I thought I'd show it to you. I made it a while ago for a friend's birthday party and was given free rein to choose the recipe as long as it included chocolate; I chose a Charlotte Cecile because that is one of my favorite cakes ever and there's nothing I like better than to make a cake I love to eat for someone else.

But what does this have to do with squirrels? The thing is that this little guy would only have his picture taken in this way when A. was with me in the park. Without A. well... that's the crazy squirrel story.
Please sir, may I have some more---
In fact the whole squirrel thing is due to A., from beginning to end, and coincides with this birthday cake "thing".
The day I started making this cake, A. decided to take Baby Saffron out to the park for a walk and, being in and out of the kitchen and quite tired, he took her without me. A short while later, he called me from the park so I could hear my little girl giggle to no end. Apparently, he'd chanced upon a French couple giving nuts to a bunch of very enterprising (read crazily comfortable with humans) squirrels who were climbing up on them to take the nuts, and these charming people had given him some nuts to lure the squirrels, thus causing my little girl's giggle fit. Well, needless to say, I immediately regretted not having gone with them but it was too late, so I resolved to take her back to that same area of the park as soon as the weather would allow it.

Now, the pictures below presumably portray what happened on that day, taken when I made A. come with me the second time I went to the park to show Baby Saffron the squirrels.
They *look* harmless, don't they....

Oh yes, the cute little squirrel on the ground.
Get the peanut and run

Uh-huh, the cute little squirrel on A.'s leg.
Fearless squirrel

Umm, the really big (but ok cute) squirrel on A.'s coat!
Squirrel Loot
Let me tell you what happened the first time I went on the squirrel adventure.
Oh yes, I was young and naive then, and they knew it.
A. had purchased a big bag of peanuts in their shell specifically for the squirrels, but when the weather wasn't quite so miserable again a few days later, he couldn't go out and Baby Saffron and I ventured forth by ourselves with aforementioned bag.

Once in the right area of the park, I started taking out shells and crunching them softly in my hands to draw the squirrels out. They came, shyly at first, pretending that the peanuts would be a nice treat, a little afternoon snack to keep their bellies happy until a dinner of nut medley and fine nut liqueur no doubt. One, two, four, six, they seemed to multiply like rabbits. Very cute and funny. Baby Saffron was amused, but I think it wasn't quite the spectacle it had been the first time, so there was no extreme giggling going on. They came from all directions and I wasn't afraid to have them climb onto my feet and shins to grab peanuts from me, but then it started. The squabbling for the peanuts, the pigeons gathering and flapping right in front of me or above Baby Saffron as I tried to wave them off, and finally the jumping and the attempts to climb onto the stroller. Yes, you see, when they've got a full bag of peanuts within their reach, all bets are off. That's when the comfort of being known as "such a nice squirrel" are thrown to the side and the most brazen wins.

Suddenly, I was being accosted on all sides at the same time by at least three or four squirrels. They were on the backs of my legs, climbing up on my shins up to my coat and hand, jumping up on the stroller, trying to shove their heads into the bag to grasp the peanut bounty. I think my burgeoning shrieks were probably causing Baby Saffron to giggle more than the actual squirrels by that stage. I could see it already: "Attacked by the Hyde Park Killer Squirrels" would be listed as the cause of death on the coroner's report. Baby Saffron would grow up to recount that terrible day in the park when she watched Mama run off in a shower of peanut shells and flying squirrels, drawing them away from her so that she could live to tell the tale.
The squirrel and the bird
So, I did what any reasonable person who is being attacked by peanut-psychotic-squirrels would do, I ran.
OK I didn't leave Baby Saffron behind, I actually ran off pushing the stroller, but wouldn't you know it, that wasn't sufficient; some of them followed me a full twenty or thirty yards (~meters) before I realized that the only way to lose them would be to throw peanuts on the ground behind me and skedaddle (prendre mes jambes à mon cou as we say in French - run like a bat out of hell), which is what I did.
I consider this to probably be one of the better episodes of how to look ridiculous with/to a small child in this first year of my little girl's life. I hope you're laughing as much as A. was when I told him about my narrow escape. To be honest, I laugh about it too so, you know, feel free to indulge.

All this to say that I love my A., he who braves crazy squirrels for me so I can take pictures, he who surprises me with gorgeous flowers and chocolate cake on Valentine's Day, he whose features I see in our little Baby Saffron, particularly in her sparkling eyes, he whose birthday it is today, just short of a month from our little Baby Saffron's birthday. And as for the cake, you'll get a recipe but not in this post. For now if you please, I'd just like to share a little bit of the color we experience in this house thanks to A.
I love my family
Oh and while we're celebrating birthdays, it's Meeta's fourth blog anniversary tomorrow, so go on over and wish What's For Lunch, Honey? a happy birthday while you're at it.

And now we wait for spring, which will be kindly brought to you by little Baby Saffron's birthday on the 21st of March. Can't wait.
Waiting for spring

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S said...

That's a really beautiful cake! Can't wait for the recipe. :-)

There's a squirrel fishing club at Berkeley. It's intense.

Mowie @ Mowielicious said...

Oh my goodness Hilda, I laughed so much because I could just picture you with Baby Saffron, running away from all these psychotic squirrels. I love your posts xxx

MeetaK said...

ok i am laughing and laughing hard - as i can so imagine you running off with the stroller and k looking like "err what'S up?" and a bunch of crazy squirrels following you! wait i need to hold my sides while i throw a fit again!!

ok after meeting a. i agree he is one of the coolest dudes with an awesome sense of humor i know. give him a huge hug. i love this post the cake looks fabulous and that pick of the bird stealing the nut is priceless!

diva said...

Reading this you had me in fits! Crazy squirrels and garden critters!! And just over a bag of peanuts. I love it. Oh Hilda, you write magically. And what a beautiful cake. I'm slightly jealous I wasn't there to see you make it. :D Happy Birthday A xxx

Jamie said...

Oh Hilda that is one terrific story and if I told you that I am laughing out loud at your escapade would you think me a bad friend for not being more worried about your safety? I was picturing you, screaming hysterically, throwing the whole bag of peanuts straight at a gang of crazed, seething, screeching squirrels and running out of the park - with or without Baby S. Except I know that you'd never leave her behind. And didn't anyone ever tell you that squirrels are dangerous?

Happy Happy Birthday A! And what a gorgeous, loving way you have of speaking of him. And how lucky he is to have you!

sunita said...

Oh Hilda, that was hilarious, I did laugh a lot, hope you don't mind. Happy birthday to A again, and hugs to the little sweetie too. Glad to know that she shares her month of birth with me and my hubs :-)

The Cooking Ninja said...

What a beautiful post! Yes I did laugh with image of you running off with papoose in stroller with yr bag of peanuts still in your hand. And then throw it down once you realised it. It's so me too. LOL! And A is such a sweetheart!

sarah said...

what wonderful pictures- of cake squirrel, birds and flowers

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Beautiful cake and very cute squirrel, we have one coming to our yard and even inside house when I forget to leave nuts for her outside ;)

shaz said...

What a beautiful cake and that story is absolutely hilarious! Love that shot of the bird pinching the peanut - amazing!

Kerrin @ said...

wait, am i the only one not laughing?! i would be F R E A K I N G out! ew, i got the chills reading about squirrels up on your legs and coat and all (de vrais frissons quoi!). i grew up with squirrels always scurrying about around our house, but never would you approach one, or -- gasp -- feed one or touch it. total no no. i guess long island squirrels are more fierce than those peanut-loving ones of hyde park! ;)

meanwhile, can't get over that photo of the bird, incredible timing! for the bird and the photographer!!

happy belated birthday to mister a, that cake above (even though not for him) was magnificent. gorgeous pictures and great post h!

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

That's really funny, I had the Mission Impossible music in my head reading this like for the squirrels in that Carling Black Label advert years ago.

Beautiful cake, can't wait to read the recipe.

Sarah, Maison Cupcake said...

That's really funny, I had the Mission Impossible music in my head reading this like for the squirrels in that Carling Black Label advert years ago.

Beautiful cake, can't wait to read the recipe.

Jenny said...

I've lost about a half dozen toddler snacks to bold squirrels at the park. When we lived in Seattle, the ravens were also quite brazen. My poor daughter was crestfallen the day the squirrels stole her muffin. More than three years later she is still paranoid about them stealing her food.

Lovely cake. (Definitely too good for the squirrels!)

crazyewe said...

Glad I'm not the only one with scary squirrel stories. The cake looks scrumptious.

my spatula said...

i'm still giggling, hilda! happy you and baby saffron made it out alive and unscathed. my husband and i had a similar experience with one very, large cow (not as funny, more extremely frightening)!!

the cake is gorgeous, btw!

shayma said...

Hilda, that is a very cute story! And as always, I really enjoyed looking at the beautiful photos. Wishing your A a very Happy Birthday. you have a nice family mashallah. best wishes, shayma

noëlle {simmer down!} said...

I'm with Kerrin on this one- I don't think I'd be comfortable with squirrels climbing on me... they may be cute from a distance but they're just a little too close to rats for my comfort! The running away screaming part, that would have been me. :)

cbaillie said...

Impressive cake and a very funny story to go along with it.

Y said...

What a wonderful wonderful post! If I'd been there, I would have been a larger version of giggling Baby Saffron, as squirrels are still quite the novelty to me :)

Oh, and Happy Birthday to A!!!

Anonymous said...

OMG, that was so funny! Thank god you have such a brave hubby to protect you from these "beasts" -
To A.: a belated happy birthday, and thank you for making my friend happy!

Sook said...

Oh the cake looks beautiful! The squirrel is cute, too! :)

Aparna said...

That was quite a squirrel story though I guess it wasn't quite funny when it was happening.

Enjoy the rich colours in your life, Hilda.

Deeba PAB said...

Yikes, what a tale that made.Gorgeous cake, heard of it on twitter, and gorgoeus pictures all around. Love the tiny peak of paoose who is pretty as a poppet! I can picturise you running from squirrels... !! Do you know that I fed squirrels too in Hyde park almost 20 years ago, but then A hadn't spoied them...LOL! They were pretty tame, and there were some speckled birds as well that came along for a snack. Happy birthday to the adventurous A ...and in advance for paoose who's gonna be 1 when Spring is here! How beautiful... xo

Dinners and Dreams said...

What lovely little squirrels. I love the pictures-they look amazing.


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