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

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

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.)


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.


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!

She’s Crafty

Actually, I’m really not that crafty.  I mean, I try … and I try not to compare myself to my friends who are super crafty moms, but every once in a while I come up with something good.  And every once in a while, the planets align & The Boy is game to participate three minutes longer than it took to set it all up.

Today was one of those days.

The Boy generally doesn’t enjoy coloring, painting, cutting, gluing or doing anything that gets his hands sticky or messy, (it’s a sensory thing,) but we’ve been working on it.  And, bonus: I finally found a use for all the wine corks that I had set aside for some sort of future craft project! Instead of having The Boy get his hands messy or use a paint brush, why not dip the end of the cork into paint?  It will help with his grip as well as keep his hands a little less paint-laden.

cork painting

We made a stocking for Dada,first with paint & then glued on fuzzy pom pons.  The Boy enjoyed it so much that we ended up making ones for Grandma & Grandpa as well!  Sometimes I feel like I’m fairly good at this mothering thing 🙂


a blurry iPhoto pic of the finished stockings!
a blurry iPhoto pic of the finished stockings!


A Little Christmas Magic …

I have always loved Christmas.  When I was a little girl, it was my most favorite holiday.  Rudolph was my favorite Christmas character because he was Santa’s loyal companion & Santa could not have delivered all those presents without Rudolph leading the charge.  I loved him so much, that when I was four years old, I insisted that everyone call me “Rudolph,” and wouldn’t acknowledge anyone unless they did so.

Rudolph (Rankin/Bass)
Rudolph (Rankin/Bass)

I was the child whose eyes lit up at the sound of jingle bells, who never questioned why there was a “Santa” at every mall or parade, the little girl who never thought twice about why Santa’s handwriting looked identical to my mother’s.  I wanted to believe in everything & I did.  And my parents made Christmas, (and every holiday,) fun and festive.  We cut down our own Christmas tree in the mountains of Northern California, my mother and I baked cookies and candies for friends, we left a plate of cookies & some milk for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph.  It was magical.

Around the age of 9 or so, kids started spreading horrible rumors about Santa & how he wasn’t “real.”  I got into several verbal altercations with bully-boys about the subject of Santa.  Finally, when I was 11, my mother sat me down & told me that the rumors were true, Santa wasn’t real, but the magic of Christmas was real … I cried and cried.  I didn’t want to stop believing in Santa.  I didn’t want to grow up & become that jaded adult who couldn’t see the magic & beauty in our world.  I promised myself that even though Santa may not be ONE man who delivers presents via a reindeer-driven sleigh, Santa was alive in my heart & in the hearts of many, and that I would never stop believing.

vintage cheery santa

When I met my husband, he and I enjoyed celebrating the holidays, (even though he is Jewish, but not religious.)  Every year, we’d get a fresh tree, exchanged gifts, (some from us, some from Santa,) and we always got the kitties gifts from Santa, too.  We put little treats in each others’ stockings & made a special Christmas Eve meal … the magic of Christmas was still alive.

But the fun really started when we had The Boy. Of course the first year, The Boy was oblivious to the goings on, and the second year pretty much the same, although he knew something was up … then the third year, which was last year, he was a little more than 2 years old & started to really get it.  Now, at age 3, he reminds me of myself when I was his age – his bright hazel eyes sparkle with wonderment, just in awe of every little bit of magic that surrounds him.  He sings Christmas carols, counts down the days until Santa arrives, bakes cookies with me, and loves all of the classic Christmas programs: “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty The Snowman,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Last year we got the Elf On The Shelf.  We had fun with it, The Boy named him “Kermin” (probably because he was very much into Kermit the Frog around the same time the Elf arrived!)  While he enjoyed Kermin’s visit with us last year, this year it has been even more fun!  Every morning, The Boy wakes up and asks where Kermin is, and then runs around the house to find him.

elf pee

I am a creative mom, (I learned from the best,) but I’m not one of those, over-achieving, elf-obsessed mothers who has the elf bake cookies in the middle of the night, only to leave a big mess for me the next morning.  (Considering that The Husband is the one who gets up with The Boy every morning and makes breakfast, I’m pretty certain he wouldn’t appreciate a huge mess like that.)  And it’s supposed to be fun, not a chore.  I read a list of elf ideas, and one of them was: “Elf makes a Rudolph nose — Use red lipstick or a red sharpie to color on the kids’ noses & leave a note near their bed that reads: go look in the mirror.”  First of all, The Boy would most likely wake up if I were to try and rub his nose with lipstick or marker.  Second of all, the lipstick would leave an awful mess on the sheets & if you used a sharpie, hell, you’d never get that off!  Has anyone really ever done that?!?

Most of the time, we just move him from place to place … occasionally, he will be involved in some silly elf hijinks like a snowball fight with other stuffed animals or figurines, or writing messages on the bathroom mirror.  The Boy particularly enjoyed when Kermin forgot to flush the toilet & he discovered that elves pee green!  (*I know in the picture above it looks blue, but it was actually green!)

this is as messy as it gets
this is as messy as it gets

The magic of Christmas is alive and well in this house & it is absolutely the most wonderful time of the year!  Merry Christmas!!

Cranberry Apricot Sauce … YUM!

I don’t know about you, but I am not a big cranberry fan.  It has to be coupled with something sweet … like, I really dig Cranberry Grape Juice.  And that’s about it.  Hahaa … I never liked the cranberry jelly that was always sitting on the Thanksgiving table like a jello mold of a tin can.  No bueno!

I went on the search for a deliciously sweet cranberry side dish.  And I found one about 3-4 years ago.  I copied the recipe & I’m sorry that I cannot credit it to the proper source, but I did make a few adjustments, so I’ll say it’s kind of sort of my adopted own.


Cranberry Apricot Sauce
Serves: 6-8

1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsps finely grated fresh ginger (just use your microplane)
16 oz cranberries (fresh or frozen, I prefer fresh if possible)
2/3 – 1/2 C granulated white sugar
1 C fresh orange juice (I’ve used store-bought OJ & it’s fine to use, and FYI: 2 large navel oranges produce about 1 cup of fresh OJ)
½ C – 3/4 C Apricot Preserves / Jam

In a saucepan, over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the ginger and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.  Stir in the cranberries, sugar, OJ & apricot preserves.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens – about 20 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl and serve warm.

Make-Ahead Note: The sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance.  Cover and keep refrigerated until ready to re-heat.

Voila!  The house smells Dee-Lish!  And people rave about this dish.  Now, you can mix it up by using different preserves & juice – the sky is the limit with these cranberries.  Enjoy.

Note:  In my store, they sell 12 oz bags of cranberries, so I have to get two bags … I use 1/2 of the other one to put in the bottom of a vase & fill with white roses or mums … or any kind of holiday-type flower.  Very pretty & the cranberries last for a while.  


I’m prepping Thanksgiving side dishes & feeling nostalgic, so I’m going to take this opportunity to dump all of this emotion on to the page.

Thanksgiving has meant a lot of things to me over the years … First I loved the holiday.  As a child, when we gathered at my aunt & uncle’s house with all of our relatives, Thanksgiving made me feel a part of something bigger; I felt a sense of family, (which was especially important as a child of divorce.)  I remember silly things like how my aunt tried to get us to eat sweet potatoes by putting marshmallows on top.  (Note: I still loathe sweet potatoes!)  I never even actually liked much of the food – I only really loved all the memories we made with our cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Then, people started dying.  And Thanksgiving only meant missing those who weren’t there … first my grandfather, then my grandmother, (who was second in line as my best friend, only missing the top spot because my mother held that place.) A great aunt, a second cousin … the herd was thinning out.

And then my father died.  He died the Monday before Thanksgiving 16 years ago.  There was a time where I couldn’t type that without sobbing.  Now I only have little misty tears in my eyes to blur these letters.  Time really does heal wounds. Our relationship was … complicated.  And that is another post for another day, but as I’ve explained to so many people in my life, it really doesn’t matter what the relationship was – he was my father.  At one time, he was my hero.  A lot happened between being my hero & being dead.  A lot that I never need to tell anyone.  And I probably won’t.  But for a long time, I dreaded Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving was sad.  And I felt alone, even though I was surrounded by other family or very close friends.  For a long time Thanksgiving was just a reminder that many of the people that I once loved to share the holiday with were no longer here.  So I tried to do things like jet off to Vegas with a boyfriend & forget that it was some meaningful family holiday, or drink myself into oblivion with my best friend.  That only made me feel empty inside.  It never made the sorrow disappear.

And then I had my own family.  What a world of difference that has made for me these past three years.  I say three years, even though The Husband & I have been married for longer than that … We had Thanksgivings, but it wasn’t a true “family” Thanksgiving until The Boy arrived.  And while the past 2 Thanksgivings have been special, this one is probably my new favorite.

Truth be told, I pretty much forgot that my father died 16 years ago yesterday, simply because my son – the light of my life – didn’t let me for one, single second, forget that I was present and in the moment … in his moment.  We didn’t do anything particularly special.  We ran errands, we laughed, we played … we lived.  We lived our normal, usual lives … full of potty breaks, making sandwiches, putting smiley faces on his new chore chart, and reading the same books we always do.

So now Thanksgiving means something better again.  Something happier.  My son, The Boy, 3 years and then some, fully understands the meaning of Thanksgiving this year.  He has watched The Peanuts “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” 90 times in the past 3 weeks, and knows who Captain Myles Standish is & who Samoset, (the first Native American Indian that the Pilgrims met,) is as well.  He tells me “Mommy, Halloween is all over, now it’s Thanksgiving, and then it will be Christmas.”

Making new memories is a lot better than remembering old ones … and, although I won’t ever forget them, I just cannot let them weigh my heart down.  The Boy needs me to be present.  The Husband needs me to be present.  I need me to be present.  So, I will raise a glass to honor the dead, to give my thanks for the memories we’ve had … and for the memories we’ve yet to make.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone  …  Life Is Beautiful.