This week, I attended three birthday parties.  On Tuesday, little sis Emily turned sixteen.  Or at least, she claims to have done so.  I, for one, believe it to be a hoax since I am quite sure the child is still twelve, give or take a year.  But I went along with it.

 As you can see, I attended through the means of Skype since it would have been a little tricky to manage a six thousand something mile round trip for the occasion.  But I have to say, it was very frustrating to miss this of all birthdays.  But then, if we go by my reckoning, she still has a few years before I’m ready for her to turn sixteen, so I don’t have to miss it, really.

 I have to say, I find it so surreal to watch family events in the home I grew up in happen over Skype while I am across an ocean.  I know those events so well – I’ve been a part of so many – that I can really imagine I am there.  I let myself get drawn into the image on the screen and become part of the event.  It’s nice, because I was able to ‘be’ at my sister’s (twelfth) birthday party.  At the same time, it’s jarring and sad when I lean just a little bit away from that screen and remember that I’m not in the room with my family.  I’m nowhere close.

 But all in all, I am spoiled.  Not many years ago, I would not have been able to even call home, much less see my sister and my family on a screen and talk to them and interact and be a part of the party.  Technology is my friend.

 On Wednesday, my friend Margaret celebrated her birthday.  She is, of her own free will, turning six this year.  I didn’t argue.  I’m a big fan of choosing what age people are.  I mean, I’ve done that with all my siblings for years.

So, for Margaret’s big birthday bash, I volunteered to make the cupcakes.  Because, as you know, I am something of a fan of baking.

 These cupcakes are chocolate with a chocolate mousse filling and vanilla buttercream frosting.  Since it was Margaret’s sixth birthday, I decided to make proper kid’s cupcakes.

 Drizzle some chocolate ganache on top, add colorful sprinkles and a ‘cherry’ and voila! Ice cream sundae cupcakes!

 I even found super professional looking boxes to carry them in.  It was a proud moment.

Of course, I was still a bit worried about feeding two dozen people cupcakes that I had no idea if they were good or not.

 Fortunately, the new recipes were a success and the cupcakes did not cause a single person to keel over dead.  I call it a win.

On Thursday, yet another birthday celebration occurred.  My friend Joelle had no idea that her morning pottery painting trip with one friend was actually a cunning plot to allow three additional friends to surprise her and celebrate her birthday together.

And, of course, I was compelled to volunteer my baking skills.

 Since I’d already done cupcakes, I wanted to change things up a bit.  So cream puffs were the logical next choice.

 It was a birthday party and I already had the sprinkles, so I went ahead and added some of those for a festive touch.  I think they look cute.

 Joelle was legitimately surprised by the presence of her friends (she asked us if we just happened to be pottery painting that morning too!)

 If you’ve never painted pottery, it’s a fabulous way to spend a few hours (and a few pounds/dollars, but it’s totally worth it).  Most places have a wide selection of fun dishes and figurines and plenty of colors.  It’s a very forgiving artistic activity since you can just sponge off the paint if you don’t like it and start over.

 After you finish, you leave your pottery at the shop to be fired so it has a nice glossy coating and can be used like any normal dish.

 Okay, is anyone really surprised at my choice of decoration for my little ceramic box?  I was saddled with a nickname and I embraced it.  Bunnies are scary.  Be afraid.

 Yes, I used various shades of blue.  It’s my pottery that I paid for so I’m going to indulge in all my favorite colors.

 The final product (sans glazing and firing, of course)

 Look at all of us creative artistic folk!

 That evening, I was excited to attend a Russian choir concert.  I would spend time with friends, enjoy music, and gain that valuable element known as culture.

It cost 9 pounds for most people, but for students, the event was free.  Even better, right?

 They started to sing (acappella) and it slowly dawned on us that something was… off…

 Several songs later, we knew what it was:  They were bad singers.  Okay, to be fair, they are better than I am, better than a lot of people I’m sure, and they were enthusiastic, which counts for, you know, something.

But they were clearly amateurs, clearly had voice-meshing issues, and they weren’t even Russian

 Why am I smiling?  Because Hannah’s expressions of pain and outrage as the concert progressed were absolutely hysterical.

So, too, were the lyrics of the folk tunes we were subjected to.

 The group is really just a group of enthusiastic music lovers who get together and learn Russian pieces.  That’s fine.  Good for them!

But the fact that they charged quite a large sum to hear their performance (thank goodness we didn’t pay anything) and the glaring mistakes that even I with my unprofessional ear could make out made us less than forgiving.

As you can see from Hannah’s expression.

 At the conclusion of their final song, Hannah clapped harder than anyone in the room.  It was over! Or was it?

As fate would have it, they had another song in store for us!  Her horror was profound.  As was my amusement.

But when they proceeded to sing a second song after the concert was supposed to be over (a song they had already sung, but apparently just had to sing one more time for our enjoyment!), even I wasn’t amused anymore.

 Luckily, they finally stopped singing and we were free.  It really was a shame the concert was so subpar.  The room is splendid and I had yet to be disappointed in the music I’ve heard in this city.  Well, not until that night, anyway.

 A very ambitious cow thought she could jump over the moon… but didn’t make it more than halfway up the side of the building…  Poor cow.

 Will I ever get tired of how this city glows at night?

Probably not.

 Three birthdays came and went, but the week was not yet over.  On the first sunny day in a week, I was compelled to escape the confines of the indoors once again.

The weather was, I admit, a bit deceptive.  It was bitterly cold and incredibly windy.

I must applaud the bravery of these flowers.

 On our walk, Lluvia and Hannah and I passed by a cupcake bakery.  Yes, a cupcake bakery!!!  We had to go in. 

It turned out that they not only sold cupcakes and cake decorating items, they also sold lots of candy (or ‘sweets’ as they are called here in this silly, endearing country).

 It was our duty as visitors from distant lands to sample the aforementioned candy – I mean sweets – in order to discover what people in this country find appealing.

 Also, I really want to own a cupcake bakery so I can have displays like this.

 I want to be a purveyor of marvellous confectionary!  It’s not fair!

 One of the best things about being an adult is that we can just walk right into this place and buy ourselves a small bag of sweets.   There is no grown up there to tell us ‘Not today’ or ‘That’s not good for you’ or ‘It’ll rot your teeth!’

We can choose to rot our own teeth, thank you!

(Mom, if you’re reading this… I promise, I only bought a very tiny little bag.  And I brushed my teeth afterwards!)

 A lemon flavored wrench.

Because she could.

Being a grown up is super fun!

 As the sunlight began to slip away, it was time to end the freezing cold, but delightful walk and make our way indoors to be productive and do homework and such.

 Or, you know, watch a movie and eat popcorn and leave that silly homework stuff until tomorrow.

Because we’re adults and we make important decisions like that every day!

(Now my mother is really worried…)