My girl has reached another milestone. A rather large one, in fact. Last week she celebrated her last day at daycare, where she has spent an important part of the first three-and-a-half years of her life while M and I were at work. In September she turns four and will be moving on to primary school. This is a happy fact: N is more than ready to delve deeper into the world of letters and numbers; school has been all she's talked about for months.
The day of goodbye started out fine. N is a matter-of-fact, no nonsense type of child who tends to take things in her stride. According to plan I arrived at three o'clock to see her sitting at the head of the circle with her beautifully decorated party hat firmly in place. What followed was a procession of songs, friendly words, hugs & kisses, treats I had baked, and present giving. The preschool teachers - to whom I am forever grateful for their loving care - gave her a kaleidoscope as a keepsake, as well as a giant ring binder full of all her artwork (more artwork!) as well as sweet little notes wishing her well and photos taken over the years. Although N's face showed signs of mixed emotions, she chatted away excitedly about being big now, big enough to start school where they teach you reading, counting and all that big kind of stuff.
During the ride home she was unusually quiet. She sat on the backseat with her party hat still firmly in place, the kaleidoscope around her neck, hugging her binder full of memories. "Are you okay?" I asked her, glancing in the rear-view mirror. "I don't know," she answered after a quiet minute (which I thought was a rather wise answer). At home we settled down on the sofa to look through her artwork together. At her request I read the goodbye letter the teachers had written, in which they said how much they would miss her and how much they'd enjoyed having her around all those years. They also reminisced about her favourite games (doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers) and her lovely artwork. As I read to her, big tears streamed down her face, followed by heartbreaking sobs as she covered her face with her hands. "I don't want to be big anymore," she wailed, "I just want to go back to all my friends and teachers - the ones I love so much, the ones who love me!" In the most comprehendible way possible, I told her life was about letting go and moving on. About endings and beginnings. And of course I told her that we could drop by and visit any time we felt like it. When her brother came home he comforted her as only a big brother can and told her that growing older is a difficult business, that it's much nicer to stay small, what with all those lovely people to look after you - not to mention all those wonderful toys to be had and all that important playing to be done. Funnily enough his talk made her feel better in no time.
In the morning I had made little spiced fairy cakes for the festivities. A fitting choice, I think, since my daughter is one spicy little girl. I did worry whether the other kids would like them - children can be fussy after all - but as it turns out only one out of the nine there had her reservations because of the raisins (she thought they were bugs). The teachers, however, loved them unanimously.
Little Spiced Fairy Cakes
adapted from Love, Bake, Nourish by Amber Rose
125g spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice (Dutch: koek/speculaaskruiden)
125g butter, softened
2 large eggs
100g raw cane sugar
30g raisins, roughly chopped
2-3 tablespoons of milk
half tub of Philadelphia or another cream cheese
2 tablespoons icing sugar
yields 22 fairy cakes or 12 normal sized muffins
- preheat the oven 180 degrees Celsius
- combine the dry ingredients except the sugar together in a large bowl
- in another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy and add a tablespoon of the flour mix, whisking to incorporate
- add the eggs one at a time, whisking well to incorporate in between; if it looks as though the mixture is curdling, add another tablespoon of the flour mixture and continue whisking
- add the rest of the dry ingredients and the raisins; gently fold everything together until thoroughly combined, adding the milk towards the end to give a creamy batter consistency
- spoon the mixture into the cases; bake fairy cakes 12-15 minutes and muffins 20-25; if you're not sure whether they are cooked, stick a thin skewer into one of the cakes - if it comes out clean, the cakes are ready
- for the icing: whisk together the cream cheese and icing sugar, checking to see whether you think it's sweet enough
- be sure to do the decorating when the cakes have completely cooled down