Happy New Year!

It’s the first day of a whole new year … lots of life waiting to happen.  2013 was fun, interesting, full of growth & discovery … but I’m ready for a new blank book to make fresh memories & create more traditions.

Last year I created a new tradition for our family: The Good Memories Jar.  Every time one of us had a fun day, we wrote it down & put it in the jar.  Then, on December 31st we read them, remembering all the fun we had this past year.

The Good Memories Jar
The Good Memories Jar

Another tradition is our NYE Dinner: Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon, Burgundy Mushrooms, a Wedge Salad & bread with Champagne Cocktails beforehand & a beautiful Syrah or Cab with dinner.  Then more champagne as we ring in the new year.  Most years we celebrate the east coast new year, but this year we went all out & stayed up past midnight!  (I’m paying for it dearly this morning)

So I took a look at my Bake-It List & looks like I came up short!  Well, guess what?  One of my resolutions, (which I don’t generally like to subscribe to,) is I’m not gonna sweat the small stuff & I won’t be too hard on myself.  I will roll over the things I didn’t bake in 2013 to 2014!  Yes, I will make an updated Bake-It List soon!  Stay tuned 🙂

I got busy in 2013 – I unexpectedly started a new venture & had to figure out how to juggle being a working mom.  It was not as easy as you working moms make it look!!!  I think I finally got into a rhythm & figured out how to fit everything in … things that fall to the last on the list?  Things for me.  And that’s just not cool, but that’s what good moms do.

Speaking of being a good mom — here are some things I’m looking forward to doing with The Boy this coming year:

  1. Take him to see the snow (this is difficult when it’s so warm here!)
  2. Finger paint more often & do more crafts
  3. Write more books with him (he just finished two picture books all on his own!)
  4. Go on more hikes with him & explore the outdoors
  5. Star gaze & cloud burst

What are you looking forward to doing in 2014?

Zucchini Bread

I’m looking around to make sure we’re alone & my mom isn’t anywhere within earshot … Somehow or another that woman always knows what I’m up to.  She used to claim she had eyes in the back of her head.  Ok, I think we’re alone … You’re not wearing a wire, are you? Cuz I’m going to do something that she has forbid me to do:  I’m going to share one of her recipes & DO NOT TELL HER I TOLD YOU.

I promise, I will deny it, I will say I don’t know you & that I heard you used to reside in Danvers State Insane Asylum after you were caught walking naked down the highway claiming you were Emeril Lagasse’s lover …  and I’m a pretty decent liar.

My mom is very protective of her recipes & I get that, but I’m also a pretty good judge of things, and I know which ones I absolutely CANNOT share, (like her famous potato casserole & the addictive cheese ball – both of which always ensure I am invited to lots of parties & pot-lucks,) but this one – well, this one is kinda standard, and I suppose you could find a similar one on the web somewhere, (though I’ve never bothered to look.)  Plus, I’m still feeling in the holiday spirit of giving.

A Family Favorite (see my photo note at the bottom of this post!)
Zucchini Bread: A Family Favorite (see my photo disclaimer at the bottom of this post!)

Zucchini Bread.  The beloved bread of Christmastime – the one little loaf that will make you want to be my friend forevermore.  Now, I suppose it makes sense that if YOU could make the zucchini bread yourself, you wouldn’t have much use for me, but did you know that I’m a ton of fun & I pour really healthy glasses of wine when you come over to my house, and I’m the world’s best secret keeper?  Well, besides this bread secret, I am.

Why now, you ask?  After all of these years of me coveting this precious recipe all to myself, why am I finally unlocking the recipe box and laying it out there for the entire world wide web to find?  Well, more than one friend of mine has made the comment that mine is the best.  And, I hate to brag, but yeah, it is.  I’ve tasted other breads and they’re dry and flavorless.  That makes people grumpy.  And I can’t have people going around all grumpy during the holidays because their zucchini bread doesn’t taste as good as mine, so here you go.  And you’re welcome 🙂

Zucchini Bread
(makes 6 small loaves)

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups grated zucchini (do not peel)
3 cups of flour (unbleached)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts (chopped)

Method:
In a big mixing bowl (I use my badass standing mixer for this) combine eggs, oil, sugar & zucchini.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder & baking soda & gradually add it to the zucchini mixture.  Mix thoroughly & then add the vanilla & the nuts.  Bake in greased 3×6 loaf pans at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes (I check after 35 & then always end up baking them 5-10 mins longer.)  If you use the larger loaf pans, bake for an hour (but check after 45 minutes if you’re neurotic like me.)  And I have also made zucchini muffins in the large muffin pan (makes a dozen) and those take about 25-30 minutes.

These make great gifts for neighbors & friends! But The Husband & The Boy like to eat slices fresh from the oven with a little butter or cream cheese … YUM!  And I mean, they are healthy – they have zucchini in them, so how can they be anything BUT healthy?

Now, for my photography disclaimer: I take all most of the pictures myself, and as you can clearly tell, I’m no pro.  I’m a multi-tasking mom with a mixer & a hungry family.  Most of my food photos are taken with my iPhone, right before I sit down to devour my meal.  This one happened to be taken with my Cannon Rebel because it was sitting out waiting for Christmas to arrive.  My food photos are inferior,  just look at my bestie’s gorgeous website, The Kitchen Snob & you will see why I feel like the ugly step-sister.  She spends countless hours with in her semi-professional studio, gently massaging crumbs off of cookies & perfectly placing them so that your mouth will water when you browse her site.  Ok, enough whining — I”m going to go heat up a slice of zucchini bread & have my coffee now.

Elf Enmity

There sure are a lot of Elf Haters out there … It’s kind of baffling to me.  And also slightly amusing that my posting elf pictures to social media sites creates such a strong reaction in people.  I guess it’s the part of my personality that wants to keep poking you when you ask me to stop poking you.  I’m not hurting you, but it bugs you & seeing your anger rise gives me a sick, twisted thrill.  I’m evil.

I love the magic of Christmastime, this we already know.  I enjoy it even more so these days because The 4-year old Boy is wide-eyed and imaginative when it comes to discovering the intricacies of this holiday.  Believing in Santa is fun.  It’s a choice.  I still believe — not in a big fat smoker who breaks into your home to leave you gifts in the dead of night, but I believe in the spirit of Santa Claus: spreading joy and happiness to friends, family & strangers even.  It’s nice to be nice.

So why are a big chunk of my, (mostly childless,) friends so scrooge-like when it comes to this little elf?  The Elf On The Shelf has caused a big divide amongst friends – you’re either Pro-Elf or Anti-Elf, and it has spurred on many a facebook post/rant.  It’s funny to me, too, that the majority of the friends who are so irritated by the elf are the same ones who will post political memes ad nauseam for months leading up to an election.  I don’t (usually) whine about it, rather, I quietly remove them from my news feed.  They are my friends, after all – I like them for many other reasons besides their backassward political views – and they are free to post whatever they wish on whatever social media platform they choose.

And I’m free to post what I want, too … like pictures of our elf, Kermin!!  So, bring on the elf!  I love this guy … another Christmas character to amuse the little one & feed my creative appetite.  I will admit that there are nights where I feel like it’s just another responsibility, another christmas chore that needs to be handled.

elf_forgot_to_move_him

But usually I look forward to conjuring up some fantastic scene that The Boy will just go nuts over when he wakes up the next morning.  I do it all (ok, mostly all) for him.  One thing a friend of mine suggested is that the elf be a “kindness” elf & give the kids tasks to complete that involve doing kind deeds.  I like that & tried to incorporate it into our elf experience this year sending notes from Kermin to The Boy.

I don’t think that the elf should be evil or naughty – I’m trying to teach The Boy good manners & destroying my kitchen to make cookies is not good manners!  Kermin is an elf who is a lot like The Boy: kind, funny, silly, and always up for playing with friends.  As The Boy gets older, I can see myself doing more sinister elf set-ups – another friend of mine does this with her teenage boys & it’s pretty hysterical.

Here’s Kermin & A Few of His Shenanigans This Season:

Did you know that elf pee smells like peppermint & they poop marshamallows?
Did you know that elf pee smells like peppermint & they poop marshmallows? Of Course, Sniper The Cat needed to check out the situation 🙂
elf_candyland
Playing Candy Land with Friends
elf_gone_fishing
Gone Fishin’
elf_halloween_candy
Found the stash of Halloween candy & sampled one of each!!
elf_midnight_snowball_fight
Snowball Fight with the Toy Story Crew!
elf_nightmare_before_xmas_scene
The gang from Nightmare Before Christmas came by with Elf Cookies!
elf_note
Wrote a note to remind The Boy to be good … a little reinforcement never hurts 🙂
elf_on_toaster
The Husband conjured up this scene … I think Kermin is warming his buns upon returning from the freezing North Pole
elf_snow_angels
snow angels
elf_sunburst
another one The Husband came up with … I’m not quite sure what is going on here 🙂

So tell me … how can someone be annoyed with something so fun?  I’m reminded of one of my favorite Christmas characters, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  At first, the other reindeer didn’t like him & wouldn’t let him play.  Awa – how sad.  So people, don’t be a hater, it’s no fun … instead spread a little cheer this Christmas & find it in your hearts to enjoy this little elf and his elfkin games.

Merry Christmas!

Mothers Day – Reality vs. Fantasy

So … You all know what I was expecting to happen on Mother’s Day.  And believe me, my expectations were low – and I don’t mean that in a negative way, I  mean that I had managed my own expectations.  I kept them in check & I didn’t think they were unreasonable.  Looking back, I realize that what I was expecting was a fantasy Mother’s Day, albeit a fantasy that was seemingly within reach.  And the fact that The Husband had a beautiful bouquet of flowers delivered to me on Friday was a sure sign that my expectations were right on the mark.  Um, yeah.

In my fantasy, I would wake up to a the smells of breakfast cooking, and in The Boy and The Husband would stroll, (The Boy would be dressed,) breakfast tray carried by The Husband, small gift bag containing a mystery gift, and/or cards carried by The Boy.  They would watch me open them up, telling me what an amazing mother I am, how much they loved me, yada yada yada, and I would nibble lazily on my griddle cakes whilst sipping my coffee …

In reality, I woke up & couldn’t really make out any smells.  I called out that I was awake, but no one answered.  I grabbed my iPhone and texted The Husband that his lovely wife was now awake & ready for some pampering.  Surely I didn’t want to spoil their surprises by getting OUT of bed & coming to find them!

Minutes went by and I could hear The Husband negotiating with The Boy to bring in my cards.  There was bribing and threats.  Then more minutes went by, and the door flung open followed by a very rambunctious Boy, half naked, hair wild, running toward me, waving cards in his hand and screaming.  Too early for screaming unless alcohol was involved, and it wasn’t.

I opened the card from The Boy and he grabbed it away, nearly ripping the card.  I retrieved it and thanked him, kissed him, and we discussed the card at length.  There was a blue dog on the front & The Boy was very impressed with this dog.  I was impressed that he had chosen the card himself.

Then I opened the card from The Husband.  Out fell a lottery ticket that The Boy tried to confiscate!  I seized the ticket and he fought me, in tears, nearly ripping it into pieces!  All I could think was “this is the winning ticket and this kid is going to destroy it and I will never forgive him … and I’ll never be able to afford his college tuition without this winning ticket!!”  It was stressful to say the least.  The Husband was nowhere to be found at this juncture.

Then came the breakfast tray carried by The Husband with room temperature griddle cakes & a bowl of berries.  The bowl was not filled to the brim with berries, rather, it was a like a ration of berries.  As though berries were some very expensive commodity & we could only afford to purchase 3 strawberries a month.  No juice, no coffee.  Syrup and butter on the side.  Question: How are you supposed to spread butter on a nearly cold griddle cake?  It doesn’t melt.  So either you skip the butter altogether, OR you eat a thin layer of butter on top of your chilly griddle cake.  I know, I know, “First World Problems.”  I should praise the effort, and I did.

The husband left me alone with the tray full of food and The Boy while he went to get me some beverages.

During this time, The (wild) Boy was jumping around the bed, trying to crawl under the breakfast tray, wanted to lay on my lap & also stole all of my raspberries!  NOT RELAXING!

I ended up hand-feeding him a griddle cake to avoid getting syrup all over my bed and us.  The Husband made his entrance again with coffee in hand and there was NO WAY I could drink it with this crazy kid flailing about – I nearly spilled twice while trying to get enough of it in my gullet to deal with the situation!  When I asked The Husband if he could remove said child so that I could eat, Husband, (on the verge of a meltdown,) proclaimed that he needed to nap because he had been up for hours.  So I was on my own.

Not that I’m complaining … Ok, maybe I am.

I will spare you the details about needing to make brownies & discovering that we were out of  eggs and The Husband nearly having a stroke because I asked him to run to the store, and all that nonsense.  I will skip right to when we get in the car and head to The Grandparents house for more festivities.  The Husband & I “restarted” the day, kissed, made up and smiled as we drove off for our 90 minute trip to my parents’ house.

I had The Boy all dressed in a cute outfit, hair perfectly gelled and iPad, water, snacks and other accoutrements at the ready for our trip down the 405 on a Mother’s Day Sunday.

Cut to: The Boy eating a PB&J.  Then barfing.  ALL. OVER. THE. @#($&% CAR.  Off the road we pull, strip him down, clean him up, change his clothes, clean up the car seat, put him back in, stop at Del Taco to pee & continue on with our journey.  Ok.  I don’t know about you, but puke was NOT in my Mother’s Day directive!  Thankfully the fact that it was Mother’s Day relieved me from clean-up duty, and when I got to my parent’s house I was greeted with a large glass of Chardonnay.

We then proceeded to have fun, grill ribs, open gifts, hug and kiss and laugh.  Ah, that’s motherhood.  That’s life.

So, in summary,  although Mother’s Day did not go as planned, as expected or  as fantasized, it was all in all a pretty good day. May have gotten off to a rocky start, but at the end of the day, when I looked back over all of it, I smiled, chuckled lightly and thought this was one I would never forget.  All that really matters is having your family around you … and family is imperfect.  Well, at least mine is imperfect.  And I wouldn’t change that for the world.  Because you know what I say: You don’t have to be perfect to be awesome.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I am pretty easy to please, and I make it effortless to do so by communicating EXACTLY what I want for Mother’s day.  The Husband was quite appreciative of the phone call I made to him the other day:

Me: Hi honey, I want to tell you what I want for Mother’s Day.
Him: Ok. Great.
Me:  I want you to let me sleep in & then I want you and The Boy to make me breakfast in bed.  There is box pancake mix in the cupboard, all you have to do is add water.  The griddle pan is easy to use, make sure you spray it with non-stick spray.  I would like fruit also & juice and coffee.  Also, take The Boy outside to pick a flower for me, put it in the bud vase and put it on the tray.
Him:  Ok.  I can do that.
Me: Take The Boy out on Saturday to get me a card – let him pick it out.  He will probably make me one at school, but he will have already given that to me, so let him pick one out himself.
Him:  Great idea.  I can do that.
Me:  You will have time on Saturday morning because I’ll be at that 5K & you guys can eat breakfast and then go out to do that.
Him:  What are we doing for Mother’s Day … I mean, after breakfast.
Me:  Well, I’ll get up after that, and you can take a little nap (yes, I know, I’m the nicest wife in the Universe!) Then we’re going to mom’s house around 10:30 or 11 and we’ll have an early dinner – she’s making ribs & we’re bringing dessert.

Look, the truth is that I probably won’t “sleep in” any longer than I do on any other morning, because although The Husband gets up with The Boy, I can usually hear them and that wakes me up.  While it would be AWESOME to demand that it be SILENT in this house – that I not hear a peep & that immediately upon me waking up, I ring a tiny bell and be brought a Queen’s feast of a Greek Omelette made with egg whites, feta cheese, scallions and tomatoes, along with home fries and a bloody mary & some coffee, and then upon finishing my breakfast a limousine whisks me away to my favorite spa for half a days worth of treatments with my girlfriends, and then wine tasting … Yeah, while that would be awesome, it’s just not realistic.

And I’m totally ok with that.  It sounds fun, but it sounds like my old life – the one I had before I became a mom.  To me, the beauty & fun of mother’s day is spending it with my family.  For a long time, all I wanted was to be a mother, and now that I am, I cherish it.  Even in the midst of an epic meltdown, a cat puking, stepping in a pee accident while the phone rings with an automated telemarketer on the other end, I’m happy.   I don’t take what I have for granted.  I worked hard to get here and sometimes while my old life might sound more carefree and fun, the truth is, it doesn’t compare to an impromptu hug and kiss from The Boy where he looks up at me lovingly and says, “I love you all the way to Neptune and back, mama.”

The only thing I ask is that I don’t have to be 100% the caretaker that day.  But that makes me chuckle as I write those words, because when The Husband’s home, he is THE BEST.  I love co-parenting with him. He’s a great dad & a wonderful husband, and we’re a great team.  And I’m not just saying that because he sometimes stops in to read this blog!  It’s true!

As a matter of a fact, Mother’s Day started early for me … The doorbell rang last night while I was getting ready to go out & a huge, gorgeous bouquet of flowers arrived, (totally unexpected!)  The card read: Happy Mother’s Day to the Fairly Good Mother.  Love, The Husband & The Boy.

Flowers for Me | The Fairly Good Mother

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you Moms!

EPIC FAIL: Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes … As Documented by One (Part) Irish Over-Achiever.

cupcake fail | The Fairly Good Mother
cupcake fail | The Fairly Good Mother

Nope, I couldn’t just buy some St. Patty’s Day cupcakes from Vons. Nope. Not me. Oh, no, I had another murder to perform on two feathered creatures, at once, with a mint chocolate chip cupcake. Welcome to St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes by way of my “Bake-It” List.

I’m a part-Irish. I’m a mutt & I don’t know the measurements for my genealogical recipe, but I’m Irish, English, American Indian & German.  How’s that for having alcoholism run through your veins???  Yeah, so, bottoms up on the Irish Car Bomb, (my fave dessert drink!)

Here is the recipe I used from 500 Cupcakes.  I’m not sure what happened.  I had to make the cupcakes 2 days ago & then was going to frost them today before the St. Patrick’s Day party.  I stored them in an airtight container, as instructed, but when I took them out today, they seemed kind of “sticky” & when I went to frost them, they crumbled.  The frosting seemed too thick & I should have trusted my instincts and thinned it out, but didn’t.  The cupcakes without the frosting were nice, very subtle mint, but with the frosting, the mint was overwhelming & much too minty.

Lucky for the party-goers I had made them for, they will not have to suffer these day glo-green cupcakes because we had something come up last minute & cannot attend the party.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes (18)

picture from the book
picture from the book

Ingredients:
cupcakes ~
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
4 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1 C. superfine “bakers” sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted sweet butter, softened
4 eggs – room temp
1 tsp mint extract
1/2 C. (3 1/2 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

frosting ~
1/2 C. (2/3 stick) unsalted sweet butter, softened
2 C. confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 tsp. mint (or peppermint) extract
Green food coloring
1/2 C. (3 1/2 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method:
Heat oven to 325* and line 18 cupcake tins with paper liners.  Sift together the flour, cocoa & baking powder.  Set aside.  In your standing mixer, beat the sugar and the butter together until nice and blended, then add the eggs one at a time.  (*THIS BAKER’S NOTE: I was a dunce and forgot to let the eggs stand at room temp before adding them & perhaps that’s why my cupcakes fell flat 😦 Bummer.)  Anyway … Add the flour mixture gradually, spooning it in on a #2 speed.  Make sure it’s good and mixed together & then STIR in (yes, on your stir setting if you don’t want to do it by hand,) the mint extract & the chocolate chips.  Spoon the mixture into the cups.  Bake for 20 minutes, check & make sure the toothpick comes out clean.  If not, put back in oven for 2-3 more minutes.   Let cool in the pan for 5 mins then move them to a rack until completely cooled.  Then frost, (and you can make these ahead a couple of days and wait to frost them, of course.)

beautiful

My bestie (a lover of all things that contain the word cake,) said that she would eat them.  Ha.  Love her 🙂

Pretty Good Year

Last night, we said goodbye to 2012 & I made sure we had fun doing so!  As you know, our family loves any and all holidays & we also love to party, so last night was no exception.  Even though it was just the 3 of us, I made it a little extra special by adding a few touches.  A couple of months back had to buy a mini helium tank for The Boy’s birthday, and we had leftover balloons and helium, so balloons: check!  Hats: check!  Noisemakers & party blowers: check!  Glow necklaces: check!   A special dinner, (filet au poivre for me & The Husband w/ Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms, and Mac & Cheese for The Boy, followed by Lemon Cake for dessert.  Then a little dance party, movie, popcorn & a 9pm toast and countdown – yes, we had to celebrate the East Coast New Year because we’re old … and I didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night prior.)

NYE Party
NYE Party

It was a pretty good year for us: We bought a house, The Husband had a busy & successful work year, The Boy started his new school & is on a path to overcoming some behavioral issues, and I, the Fairly Good Mother, started this blog!  Of course, there were challenges as well: being told that The Boy has Aspergers, a minor surgery for me & little let downs that are just part of life.

I am a big believer in letting your imagination soar & take you anywhere you want, so therefore, I have some big plans for 2013.  I don’t really believe in “resolutions,” to me it’s just another way to be disappointed in yourself when you ultimately backslide, (because, let’s face it – going from being nestled in a winter cocoon for the past several weeks to becoming a marathon runner in a month is setting yourself up for failure.)  I’m not saying not to try & better yourself, or make improvements to your life, but the language of “I resolve not to do x, y & z” is inherently negative.  Rather, I think having “goals” and saying something like, “This year, I’d like to try and accomplish x, y & z” has more positive energy.

accomplishment

And I don’t know about you, but I feel like we can all use a LOT more positive energy around here!  2012 seemed so “doom and gloom,” to me, what with the end-of-the-world Mayan calendar predictions, the economy still in a downward spiral, and so many natural,(and manmade) disasters peppering our existence.  I’m ready for some good times, some smiles, some laughter, some hope & some more dancing.  I feel like 2013 has so much potential & truly, the best is yet to come.  So dream big & create your own reality … and always aim for growing into a better, more patient, kinder & accepting person.  Because that’s what the world needs.  Happy 2013!