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It’s Hard Being Orna

Dear Ann,
So, I’m totally hung over. No, not from my birthday. I know this is a shocker, but a 49th birthday is something one really has to work at getting excited about. I always enjoy my birthday, mostly because of the wine. But still. 49. Woop-de-freakin’-do, if you get my drift. Don’t get me wrong–I’m happy to be here! Loving every minute! Cherish is the word I use to describe!
What I am hung over from is the Cake That Nearly Killed Me.
Last Thursday, I left the knitopian scene at Strawberry Fields and headed to my pal Orna’s house to make The. Cake. This was the cake for the Cast Party of the 4th Grade Play. The Cast Party Committee assigned Orna, a celebrated baker, to make the cake. I assigned myself to assist Orna in this endeavor. By which I mean, to keep Orna on Planet Earth. This is not easy.
Here is a typical conversation.
The Scene: Orna’s Kitchen, past bedtime for all children except mine and Orna’s.
Orna (speaking in charming accent of her native Tel Aviv): KAY! I don’t know what we are going to do about the LOGISTICS of the REFRIGERATION! Please tell me: How are we going to transport this cake! My GOD KAY IT’S A HUGE CAKE! We’ll never do it! How can we do it? Can you tell me, HOW?
Kay (totally charmless accent): Erm, Orna, as I was saying, could we not solve the whole problem of refrigeration by eliminating the creme patissiere and its 18 eggs, and the 9 pounds of buttercream frosting? How about if we just made, like….[steps back to shield herself from the blast of Orna’s anticipated reaction]…. a regular cake? We could just make a chocolate cake–a really GOOD chocolate cake, Orna, an UNFORGETTABLE chocolate cake–and decorate the living HECK out of it, just using a type of frosting that could–you know–sit out overnight without breeding lethal bacteria? That would make life a whole lot easier than your plan to divide the cake into regions, and have each of us take our region of the cake home to our refrigerator (which we have emptied of other food), and then transport our region to school tomorrow, to refrigerate it in the school cafeteria’s walk-in unit (which has been emptied of other food), and then to reassemble the decorated cake in time for the party? I mean, don’t you think?
Orna: No, no, no, no, no! Without the buttercream and the creme patissiere —-oh KAY! I forgot to tell you that what we are going to do is, we are going to mix the creme patissiere with whipped cream, to LIGHTEN IT, so it’s not so HEAVY–without all of these dairy products, Kay, the cake will be NO. GOOD. We cannot serve such a cake on such an occasion. No, no, no.
Kay: [Sighs]. But Orna. The dairy is what is making all these logistical problems. The dairy, and the fact that we don’t want to kill everybody after the play.
Orna: You know what? I know you’re right. But I cannot do it that way.
Kay: Why not?
Orna: [sighs] It’s hard being Orna.
We had this conversation about 20 times. Sometimes I would send somebody else to have this conversation with Orna. (One person, who obviously didn’t know who he was dealing with, uttered the unfortunate phrase, ‘Duncan Hines’.) We kept having this conversation. Orna kept making batches of buttercream. Eventually I gave up. After hours of collaboratively decorating the cake to recreate the setting of Charlotte’s Web, in the middle of the night, I drove 2 regions of the cake to our as-yet-uninhabited apartment, where I placed each region on a shelf of our as-yet-unused fridge. The next morning I picked up my regions and, cursing at Hubby in a most shameful way—for it was not Hubby’s fault that I was smeared with buttercream and stressed out of my ever-lovin’ TREE, but somehow it seemed that way at the time–got my regions to the school cafeteria. Thence to the party. Thence to the Glory Of It All.
Here’s the cake. Here’s Orna.
All was forgiven when the kids stampeded over to see the cake. They marvelled at its size and at the parental labor that obviously went into its rustic decoration. This was no store-bought cake, for sure. Since they had so recently completed their own labors over the sets and learning their lines and singing their songs, they really appreciated it. Pictures do not do it justice. It was a radiant cake.
I would be remiss if I did not share a picture of Fern Number 2 of 6. My Carrie was born to play Fern Number 2 of 6. She ROCKED Fern Number 2 of 6. I was proud to see my adamantly unadorned child wearing a bandana. That’s Method Acting. That’s commitment. That’s craft.
Here, Fern Number 2 of 6 leads Wilbur Number 1 of 8 into the Zuckerman Barn. Attentive readers will note that Wilbur’s costume appears to be vintage Balenciaga. The capelike design was to ensure that Wilburs 1 Through 8 could all wear the costume and easily get it on and off. Ensuring that there was a costume ready for each player at the appropriate time was a logistical challenge to rival the Invasion of Normandy.
In 1945 they didn’t have XXL ZipLoc bags.
Back to The Cake for a second: I would like to thank Amber for her suggestion about crushed Oreos looking eggzackly like potting soil. That tip was crucial to the success of our manure pile. Crucial, I tell you.
Love, Kay



  1. Some cake!! Truly radiant. Bravo!

  2. I loved reading this Kay! Not only is it just plain funny – and I can really hear Orna’s voice – you have summed up the elementary school experience we all are destined to have in some form or another at some time or another in our children’s educational career. And Fern #2 of 6 looks fabulous.

  3. That cake is a masterpiece and you should be proud of being part of its’ creation. School plays are the best. Memories are being made!

  4. What a cake! And I’ve never seen a better Fern Number 2 of 6… You must be so proud!

  5. The cake is a hoot. I love that it had to be assembled on-site. I love that Orna could not go against her nature, despite your attempts to persuade her. I love that there was a manure pile. And I love that there were eight Wilburs (though as a child I would have seen this as a very lame adult stab at fairness that was unjustly robbing me of the spotlight). Well done!

  6. I LOVE the way you ladies write. That and knowing that I have good company through the trials and tribulations of the knitting mother. Haven’t been on the cake committee yet, but can relate all too well to the costumes. I was on the “assorted spring flowers” costume committee for the first graders a few years back and sat in the audience with pride to see they survived to be re-used the next year! Thank God for glue guns, hefty paper plates and craft foam.
    P.S. My daughter is the determinedly unadorned sort also.

  7. Bravo on the cake and to Fern 2 of 6! Bravo to the cake transporters who valiantly carried the pieces of cake around NYC which is no small feat!!

  8. Holy cow! That cake needs its own zip code. Color me gobsmacked.

  9. It does sound hard to be Orna. But what a job she does of it!!! The cake is fabulous, and your Fern is indeed perfect.

  10. How wonderful! I think we should all remember the line, “It’s hard being Orna,” and modify it to our own moments of, “No, it’s my way or the highway.” Because. We all should have our moments.
    I need to know a lot more about Orna. And a big piece of cake for breakfast. And how to make buttercreme.

  11. I’m normally just a lurker, but–I’m with Orna on this one! If you’ve ever dealt with the array of non-dairy cakes available for those who keep Kosher, or don’t mix milk and meat? Whew, it is such a dang relief just to use all that buttercream. I’m just saying, I love me a dairy meal! It’s a relief to use all the whipped cream. You’ll have to believe me on this one…
    And, well, I’ve never seen such a marvelous Fern, or a better done Charlotte’s Web. How could such a wonderful book be improved on? By those costumes, that cake, and of course, all those kids!

  12. Now that’s a cake!!

  13. Whew, those Israelis can really suck you up and whip you around with their energy. I should know, I’m married to one, he-who-shall-receive-the-bathmat.

  14. Wow – that is SOME CAKE! πŸ˜‰

  15. Hi, delurking to wish you a Happy B-day, if I read it correctly. πŸ™‚ My bday was last week, and I had trouble mustering up any interest in it as well.
    However, I live in Holland these days and instead of wishing you a Happy Birthday, they tell you “Congratualtions!” I love this. I felt like I got mad props for making it through another year. Go me! Go you!

  16. Thank you ladies for this life enriching blog (truly!)- always a pleasure to read. Love the cake and have always enjoyed literature enlivened with dialogue in dialect. Tasty indeed!

  17. That is a T double-E double-R double-R double-I double-F double-I double-C, C, C Cake!
    Funny, funny post.
    I hope that we all have a little Orna, no?
    And Kay- what, you couldn’t handknit a bandana? Are you slackin’ or somethin’? Sheesh. Its not like you were busy assembling a cake the size of a soccer field or anything…

  18. hahahahahaha Fern number 2 of 6!! does that make her 1/3 Fern? She looks fantastic and I am sure she was THE BEST FERN EVER!

  19. I want to know who played Charlotte’s baby number 321 out of 1,893. That kid’s parents must have SO FREAKING PROUD!
    Seriously. Love the cake. Love the bandana. Love you. Have a fanfuckingtastic day birthday girl!

  20. speechless in Utah

  21. I think, first of all, that Carrie is a MARVELOUS Fern. I may start calling her Fern. When I call her.
    I have to say, this brings home all the quandries of city vs. country. If you lived in the burbs, you’d have a Mom-bomb that the whole cake fit in and an extra fridge in the garage. BUT, if you lived in thr burbs, you’d be refrigerating a Duncan Hines with Whipped Topping. BUT you have Orna and CREME PATISSIERE. Good heavens. God bless the schleppers of New York.

  22. Hey, I’m having that same Woop-de-freakin’-do birthday this year. πŸ˜‰
    or make that ;-(
    or 😐
    Love that cake! And Orna! And Fern 2 of 6!!

  23. WOW! talk about being a supermom! way to go!
    :o) rounds of applause, all around! Orna’s lucky to have a friend like you. because i would not have been as good! buttercream would have been splattered on the walls…

  24. Terrific!

  25. That is so cool!
    That was my all time favorite book growing up (my mom finally bought a copy for me because I checked it out EVERY single time we went to the library)
    Congratulations to Fern 2 of 6!

  26. Fern 2 of 6 looks great.
    Loved today’s post because it is so typical of the Mom’s life…a fantastic, adult, knitting moment at the Imagine event. And then…back to kid-induced mayhem! Maybe this post seemed so funny because I can relate. My birthday was March 22, but I spent the week preparing for my daughter’s birthday party. It had to be at our house…no forking over money to have it somewhere else. It was a beach party…in MN in March…and I offered to crochet all the girls flip flops (doesn’t take long until you multiply it by all the party girls). Of course, cake with homemade fluffy, boiled icing. And the list goes on. So…within the same week I have been you and Orna.
    Where’s the wine?

  27. A Brit once told me (or was it a Quebecois?) that American accents are cute. I choose to believe him.

  28. Oh yes, how hard it is to be Orna! And orchestrate the cake that gave you a hangover! ha Happy Belated Birthday and Fern 2 of 6 is just beautiful! We did Alice in Wonderland when I was in 6th grade. It was a BIG DEAL. We had four Alices but only one of everything else – I was the Caterpillar. And we had no cake – but we also had no Orna.

  29. God bless ’em, my boys’ school made it simple and banned homemade goodies. Store (or bakery) bought only!
    Funny how the cake took up residence in your new condo before you did…

  30. When they make “Mason-Dixon Knitting: The Movie”, can I be Orna 2 of 6? Pretty please?

  31. Orna is my kind of gal! I agree – without the eggs and the whipped cream and all that dairy goodness, a cake isn’t even remotely as good. Sometimes it’s worth a ton of seemingly insane work to get an end result that makes you proud and makes everyone else happy. Kind of like knitting, no?

  32. Please don’t hate me, Kay, but I’m totally with Orna on this whole cake biz. I was the bitch who brought the 16 layer chocolate cream cake to the office birthday party. Duncan Hines has never crossed my threshold and I would bitch-slap anyone who attempted to orchestrate such a manouveur.
    Carrie looks adorable as Fern #2. I bet she kicked all the other Fern’s asses. Figuratively spekaing, of course.
    Hey it sorta sounds like a Star Trek thing — “Fern 2 of 6.”
    Sorry. I need cake. Where’s Orna?

  33. Only on your blog. That cake. That Orna. That Fern 2 of 6.
    You so seriously rock.

  34. And how did we function before the invention of zip-lock bags, let alone the truly magnificent extra-large, multiple gallon zip-lock bags?

  35. You have made me fall incontrovertibly in love with Orna. Sometimes, it is hard being Crazy Lanea. Because of the crazy part, I guess.

  36. Damn and blast, I am not the first, third or tenth person to say “that’s SOME CAKE!”
    I love Orna and Fern 2 of 6 and the cake and absolutely all of this. All of it.
    p.s., never ever try to come between a cakewoman and her buttercream.

  37. Fern 2 of 6 looks like a natural onstage! And maybe this is just my pregnancy hormones talking, but I think I could go for a farm-sized cake right about now. Orna is a lady after my own heart…I think I need to go make a batch of cupcakes or something, just to take the edge off!

  38. That cake is bigger than Rhode Island, very impressive!

  39. That is SOME FERN (2 of 6) and she deserves SOME CAKE of great proportions with marvelous dairy.
    I have a friend a bit like Orna, though she’s a blond from Massachusetts with fairly recent Finnish lineage… she makes themed scratch cakes for everyone on their special day – basketball for the NCAA fan, motorcycle for the Harley enthusiast, yacht with moose for the moose collector yearning for a yacht, etc. Unfortunately for the Harley enthusiast, he gave her a book on making cakes for her birthday – she was quite insulted! He thought he was giving her ideas and was quite pleased with himself. She believed she needed no instruction (and she doesn’t! Her cakes are a delight!) I think he’ll not be getting any cake from her again! πŸ™‚

  40. As a childless woman, may I ask why it is that women like Orna always seem to survive and reproduce? I hesitate to think what Mr. Orna must be like, or any little Ornas. You are to be commended for your patience, and I hope you had a lot of wine.

  41. Cake madness – I love it! I’m so glad that Orna stayed true to herself. You did yourselves proud.

  42. Awesome cake!! Looks like, despite your helpful advice, she did it HER way.

  43. Brilliant!

  44. That Orna knows how to throw down the gauntlet. I was planning One Bowl Chocolate Cake with Swiss Meringue Buttercream for Bruno’s teacher’s birthday tomorrow, but I might just have time for GΓ’teau St Honore…

  45. Wow, that cake looks awesome. You’ll have to have a knitting party for the next one…..

  46. What Amber probably knows, and Orna doesn’t, is that ground up Oreos are vital to the making of that classic school-kid treat, dirt & worms. A throw-back to an earlier time, when mothers felt ok feeding their kids instant pudding, cool-whip, and a bag of oreos. Oh yeah, and gummy worms.
    Congrats to Fern #2 of 6 and her mom.
    (Brings back memories of the year my daughter was Romeo (the one and only) in the class production of Romeo & Juliet. She chose her cross-gender part because it meant not competing for the coveted Juliet spot πŸ˜‰ )

  47. Brava! Brava! Bokays to Orna, to Fern-Who-Will-Always-Be-The-Only-Fern-As-Far-As-I’m-Concerned, to the Balenciaga-caped Wilburs, to all of you!

  48. Boy did that tale get me going! It’s been awhile since I’ve laughed that much! I did appreciate all the work that went into it, having 4 daugthers, I know the work! You ladies are awesome! You should send the tip to the Oreo people, and maybe Martha…..:-)

  49. Delurking to say that this post had me laughing so HARD! I could just hear that cake conversation in my head. And the kiddies are so cute!! They deserved a cake to end all cast party cakes. Unashamed to say I am STILL laughing as I write this comment.
    Happy Belated!

  50. I love Orna and her hair…
    Happy Belated Darlin’ you don’t look a day over 28…

  51. It’s Fern to the life!

  52. Wowzers.
    It must, indeed, be hard to be Orna.
    That is some cake and you are one hell of an assistant!

  53. What am amazing cake! What wonderful friends! You are blessed — and so is the number 49. When you are ready for a simple cake, you can add those crushed Oreos to whipped cream to fill and top a chocolate cake. Heaven to both adults and children of all ages.

  54. oh for pete’s sake, she’s wearing a bandanna, take the slippery slope approach to child adornment. Knit her a Calorimetry!

  55. Orna rocks. Carrie is rocking the bandana. And the pig is eerily remiscent of Balenciaga, especially since I just attended an exhibition of his clothing on Sunday. Balenciaga, sigh!

  56. Personally, I would have been very disappointed not to be able to have cake after all my hard work just because it had to have so… much… dairy!!!
    My stomach can handle some, but I think that being in the same room with that cake probably would have killed me πŸ™

  57. What we do for love. And for Orna.
    Carrie is rocking that bandana. How many parents did they have backstage working costume changes?

  58. Delurking to say that your post made my day. Hilarious! The way you tell a story is pure entertainment. BTW – Fern No. 2 of 6 looked RADIANT!

  59. A lot of cool things in that story, and no, I’m not just talking about the refrigeration. What really impressed me the most was that the kids got the amount of labor and love. In the face of an impending sweet-fest, they could still step back and relate Orna’s and your work to their work. Really cool. Orna might appreciate some Peanuts notepaper my mom gave me once, “There is no heavier burden than a great potential.” I guess that applies to all of us!

  60. But did you eat it?

  61. What Moms will do for their kids is just amaaaaaaazing! So is the cake!

  62. Kay, you’re freakin’ awesome! The cake looks great and I am still in tears laughing at the ‘unfortunate use of the words Duncan Hines.’ OMG! Too funny!
    BTW, I know a lady like that…I call her Mom. Can you imagine the Easter Bunny Cake?

  63. It may be hard “being Orna” but I bet that cake went down like BUTTAH! I’ve been hungry for quality cake ever since you put this up!!!! You’re killing my diet Orna! Killing it…… cept- I can’t ind any cake as wonderful as your description anywhere in Canton, MI! Bummer have to keep taste testing!

  64. I’m with Orna: You must have cream, butter, eggs and other dangerously perishable ingredients involved or it is No. Good.

  65. I agree Fern #2 of 6 is marvelous and a real beauty, and the cake was delicious! Definitely worth all the schlepping!


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