27th Birthday: Happiness and Cherry Almond Challah

Birthdays are funny.

27th Birthday

You think they’re going to go one way, but usually they don’t.

  • 25th Birthday: I made plans for a big dinner party to be hosted at my apartment. Unfortunately, a snow storm the day before resulted in lots of food, but only half as many guests. Limited as the guests were, somehow a random acquaintance (I invited him as a joke) shows up, along with my ex-boyfriend (invited, but I anticipated he would not come). Fortunately, the random guy is a natural born performer and  proceeds to do a choreographed dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller in my living room. My ex-boyfriend is so mad, he leaves immediately.
  • 26th Birthday: I accidentally missed my flight from San Francisco to St Louis the night before. Luckily, I was able to catch a flight the next morning, but I would be getting in JUST in time for my party. Normally, I wouldn’t have such big plans, but it was my big “golden year” birthday party. I cried on my way home from the airport. I don’t remember exactly why I was crying except that it was related to my boyfriend, at the time. Ended up he broke up with me one week later.
  • 27th Birthday: My birthday falls on a Tuesday – the only day of the week that I have to work until 9pm. In an effort to avoid keeping people up late, I made them get up early. My birthday breakfast party started at 6:30a this morning. I was up and ready by six and I originally thought I would have help getting things ready. But, due to an error in communication, I did most of it myself. I ended up getting to my party late with freshly wiped tears.

“Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday,” says Everyone. 

I think the hardest thing about birthdays is the expectation that it will be happy all the time. And it is happy, in a way; but, it’s also tiring having to be on cue all day long. It’s exhausting trying to make that day as special as everyone else wants it to be.

The point is.. your birthday doesn’t always go like you planned. Sometimes, you have to cry on your birthday. And you know what? That’s okay. Life is not represented by one perfect day. It’s full of messes and opportunities to grow.

Here’s the other thing to remember…

Maybe when your friends and family tell you “happy birthday,” they’re not trying to say that YOU HAVE to be happy. Maybe they’re trying to say that THEY are happy. Happy to know you and experience you. Happy you were born.

We may not be happy 100% of the time on our birthday, but we are BLESSED.

Fact: There’s a lot of people that woke up very early this morning to celebrate my birthday with me.

I knew that by setting the time for my birthday party at 6:30am I might only get a few people to come. But, I also knew that anyone willing to get up at 5:30 to get ready for their 6:30am party would be someone that really cared a lot about me.

I’m lucky to have people in my life that care so much about me.

  • My mom text me at 4:45a this morning to tell me what we were doing 27 years ago and made me a wonderful fruit salad for my birthday party. She also bought me my very own Jackie Kennedy dress. I’m going to be very professional some day and take conference calls while I’m wearing it.
  • Kirt, my amazing step-dad, got me pretty flowers with all kinds of bright beautiful colors. He also helped neutralize my frustrations this morning as he did is best to take the attention off of me direct it elsewhere.
  • Amber, my sister, sat across the table from me and made me laugh. Ever since she was a little girl, she has been a source of strength and serenity for me. Anytime I’m upset, she works her magic to soak up my hurt and replace it with laughter and comfort.
  • My dad, who lives an hour away, woke up extra early to drive to my party and then sat and watched the rest of us eat while he fasted. AND, I’m excited because he’s going to take me on a trip to Kansas City to go shopping and pick out a new knife for my kitchen!
  • My littlest sister, Karina, did her part to scream and jump up and down to greet me as I came in the door this morning. She’s a great welcoming committee.
  • My boyfriend, Adam, woke up extra early to come help scrape off some of my car and graciously paid for three group dance lessons earlier in the month. I’ve always wanted to go to a ball and dance around the room with my partner. It was even more special to include our parents in the deal.
  • Joan, my boyfriend’s mom, offered to let me use her house for my party since my apartment is so small. She bought all the plates and decorations. She takes a lot of thought and care to make things look great and I appreciate that.
  • Robs, my boyfriend’s dad, provides constant entertainment to anyone in a 50 foot radius. He and Joan also got me a great pair of new dancing shoes.
  • Carol, my co-worker, helped me clean dishes and prep all the food the night before my party. Not everyone would wait an additional 3 hours after work to eat supper just so they could help out a friend.

The real star of my birthday didn’t turn out to be human at all. This star is in the form of a very delicious (Jewish inspired) bread…

Birthday Bread: Cherry Almond Challah

Let me tell you, this bread is labor intensive, but completely worth it. I can’t have cake on my birthday because I gave up sweets for Lent, but I can have delicious bread.

This one is a winner.

Cherry Almond Challah

Recipe: Cherry Almond Challah

(makes 2 loaves)


  • 1 1/2 C tart Cherries, sliced and plumped in lemon juice and sugar
  • 2 C raw almonds, chopped coarsely
  • 1 3/4 C warm water
  • 2 Tbsp yeast
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/3 C sugar
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 3 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 C canola oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 additional yolks
  • 4 C wheat flour
  • 2-3 C white bread flour
  • Egg wash: 2 T water, 2 tsp sugar, 1 egg, 1 additional yolk

Cherry Almond Challah Directions:

  1. In a large bowl stir together yeast, water, and pinch of sugar. let stand five minutes and allow for yeast to swell and dissolve.
  2. Briskly stir in remaining sugar, honey, cinnamon, almond extract and salt. Then add oil, eggs, yolks and about 5 cups of the flour. Stir and let stand 10-20 minutes to absorb flour.
  3. Knead by hand for 10-12 minutes adding additional 1-2 cups of flour as needed. Dough should be soft, but not sticking.
  4. Let rest for 10 minutes. Then roll out and press cherries and almonds into dough to distribute evenly throughout. Place dough in a greased bowl and let sit covered for 45-90 minutes or until doubled in size.
  5. Make a 6 braid challah: Take half of dough and form into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long. Place 6 in a row, parallel to each other. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over two strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over two inner strands. Continue until all strands are braided. Pinch ends together.
  6. Place braided loaves on either greased or dusted (cornmeal) cookie sheet and brush with egg wash. Let rise until puffy, 20-30 minutes.
  7. Bake bread 12 minutes at 400 degrees F. Then, reduce heat to 350 and bake for 20 more minutes. If browning more than desired, cover with aluminum foil.

Happy Birthday to Everyone.

2 thoughts on “27th Birthday: Happiness and Cherry Almond Challah

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