Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I'm Not a Perfect Parent

I'm having one of those weeks where I feel like a complete failure as a parent. You know the weeks, where you make these major mistakes that feel like the end of the world. I sat on the couch in tears last night because I was pretty positive I scarred a child's soul for life.

But you know what? Kids are resilient. I think we as parents often beat ourselves up over our failures far more than our kids actually feel them. Because here is the truth: I love my kids. I feed them, clothe them, show them I love them. A bad parent is someone who abuses, belittles, persecutes, or neglects their children. Parents who love their kids enough to be honest about their mistakes, cry over those precious souls, and ask for help are not bad parents.

There's a concept in counseling called the "good enough parent". I wasn't a parent in grad school, but I remember loving this term when I came across it. Studies have shown that parents do not have to be amazing to produce amazing kids, they just have to be good enough. Good enough means loving, caring for, disciplining, and doing our best, even though we won't always do the right thing.

So keep reading those parenting books. Keep working on yourself, growing in kindness, grace, and gentleness with your kids. But also remember that you don't have to be a perfect parent. Be good enough for your kids, and point them to Jesus for the perfect part.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Adult Cupcakes for the Win {Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes}

Have you ever come across that one recipe that is more than you ever dreamed of? It never disappoints, always turns out well, and tastes like heaven. My friends, I have that recipe for you today. Let me introduce my favorite cupcakes in the entire world: Irish Car Bomb cupcakes. 

For those of you who might not be familiar with it, an Irish Car Bomb is a drink that combines Guinness beer, whiskey, and Bailey's Irish Cream. These cupcakes take each drink and turn it into a part of the cupcake: Guinness chocolate cake, whiskey chocolate filling, and Irish Cream frosting. These started as my go-to St. Patrick's Day dessert, but have become our favorite all-occasion treat.

Let me preface all this by saying that these cupcakes are an enormous amount of work. They take me ALL DAY. But never has a day been better spent. The moment you taste your finished product, you will never be able to go back to a regular cupcake. Let me also say that while alcohol does cook out, the frosting is not cooked so these are not suitable for children. Please share them only with your adult friends.

I found this recipe on See Dani Bake. and made only a few tweaks. The only difference for me was slightly increasing the liquid and sugar, plus decreasing the baking soda for high altitude. I've noted my high altitude tweaks below.

Ingredients

Guinness Stout Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup Guinness (I added an extra 2 T for high altitude)
1 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar (reduced by 2T for high altitude)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (reduced by 1/8 tsp for high altitude)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Jameson Whiskey Ganache Filling

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
2 ounces bittersweet dark chocolate (Something around 70% is good)
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 to 2 tablespoons whiskey (Ben said I couldn't steal his Jack so I used Canadian whiskey)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, softened
4oz unsalted butter, softened
5 cups powdered sugar (cut back or add more depending on how much Bailey's you add)
4-6 tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish Cream (or other Irish Cream. I used Brendan's.)

Directions


Cupcakes
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 cupcake tins with liners.
2. Bring 1 cup Guinness and 1 cup butter to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. (I find melting the butter first then adding the Guinness kept it from burning.)
3. Take the mixture off the heat and add the cocoa powder and chocolate chips and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly. (I threw mine in the fridge for 5 minutes.)



4. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt together in large bowl.
5. Using a stand mixer, beat eggs and then add sour cream in another large bowl and mix well.
6. Add Guinness-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and mix in mixer to combine--don't over-mix.
7. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined.
8. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way (I have a fabulous cupcake scoop from Pampered Chef similar to this one).




9. Bake cake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely before coring for filling. 

Ganache
1. Heat the cream until simmering and then add in the chocolate chips and dark chocolate. Stir rapidly until smooth while on the heat.
2. Add the butter, whiskey, and vanilla. Stir until combined.
3. Take the ganache off the heat and let it cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (I put mine in the fridge, but make sure to stir it every 10 minutes).
4. Meanwhile, use a 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer (I used a baby spoon and it worked perfectly) to cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom, so aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon will help you get the center out. Either toss the scraps or eat them while you finish up the cupcakes. (I find if I set the bowl of centers out, my husband will take care of them.)




5. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top. (I just put the ganache in a quart size zip-top bag and cut one of the corners.) 



Frosting
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment mix the room temperature cream cheese and butter on low to medium low speed until well incorporated. 
2. Slowly add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy on medium speed.
3. Drizzle in the Bailey’s, depending on how prominent you want the Irish cream flavoring to be. (SOOOO prominent.) Mix until completely incorporated.
4. Use a piping bag with tip of your choice (I have the Pampered Chef frosting decorator, which looks similar to this oneand frost the cupcakes. 





Melanie's tips for successful cupcake baking:

1. Follow the directions. FOR REAL you guys- I like a shortcut as much as anyone, but that bit about whisking the flour and hand stirring the batter is there for a reason. You will be much happier with the result if you take the time to do it right.

2. You might be tempted to do something productive while your cupcakes bake, like clean your house or pay bills. Don't. This is your golden hour- eat as much cupcake batter as humanly possible and shop on Amazon to your heart's content. (I bought these shoes today during my 17 minutes.) Trust me on this one, you'll thank me.

3. Call all your friends. This recipe makes an incredibly large number of cupcakes and while you will want to eat every. last. one. you probably shouldn't. I've been there. And after that three-steps-to-success formula, you want some solid appreciation if you can't devour them all yourself. Your friends will all die of happiness as they bit into these, so don't deprive them of this opportunity.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jane Austen for Babies (Giveaway)

Jane Austen has always been one of my favorite authors. I don't remember when I first picked up one of her novels, but by high school Pride and Prejudice was cemented as one of my most-beloved books. I've watched the P&P mini series at least 20 times and used part of the sound track to the 2006 version as my wedding march. The moment I found out Tessa was a girl, I knew I wanted to share my love of Jane Austen with her. (I wanted to name her Elizabeth or Elinor or Jane, but for some reason Ben didn't quite agree.)


My mom threw a book shower for Tessa, and one of the gifts was Baby Lit Books' Pride and Prejudice. I had no idea there were Jane Austen board books, and I was delighted! Since then we've also collected Sense & Sensibility and Emma, along with a few other classics. As a lover of classic literature, these have been perfect for my kids. They combine my love for old books with fun, colorful illustrations that Eli and Tessa really enjoy.


Tessa's current favorite is Emma which might be my favorite too. It combines feelings with colors for a really fun book. Tessa imitates the "sad" page and it's pretty adorable.


Of course, I'm already thinking about which ones to order next! My mom just bought Tessa Alice in Wonderland on Saturday. I think for Christmas I might get her Little Women (comes out Sept 6!) or The Secret Garden. And they aren't just for girls! Eli loves our copy of Moby Dick and I think Jungle Book might be next for him.


And now for the best part, a giveaway! I'll be giving away one copy of your choice: Pride & Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, or Emma. Comment below with your favorite Baby Lit Book plus which of the three options you'd like to win.  Follow me on Instagram or share this post on Facebook for up to 2 additional entries (add an additional comment per entry). Giveaway ends August 25 at midnight MST. Open to US residents only. May the best reader win!


Monday, August 15, 2016

Back to School... For the First Time!

Since becoming a stay-at-home mom, back to school has been a bit of an enigma. All those moms rushing around purchasing school supplies, wondering about lunches and homework and schedules seemed so foreign. My toddlers and I were blissfully unaware of this world of school.

And then we decided to put Eli in Pre-K. All of a sudden, I'm the one in the whirlwind, making the mad dash for school supplies, a new backpack (only Spiderman-- nothing else will do), and planning our schedule. A few of my friends are caught in this new world with me and we've all realized in the last couple weeks that our lives are about to change (not to sound dramatic or anything).  In a couple of weeks, I won't be doing morning playdates every day of the week, running of to the park with no worry about the time. Eli will be at Pre-K three afternoons a week, plus we do MOPS. Add in T-ball, Awana, and all that laundry and we're done.  You moms of older kids are probably laughing at me but this is a big deal for me!

So now I'm wondering, how do I do it all? How do I fit in time with my kids, friendships, and all that laundry? I'd like to be one of those cute bloggers with new back to school outfits and fabulous hair, but it's just pony tails and leggings over here.

Will you join me? Will you enter this crazy world of school and all that comes along with it? How do you cope with it all?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sibling Bonds

Growing up, I always loved having siblings. Sure, we fought with each other and vied for our parents' attention, yet all my happy memories are with my siblings. Every birthday, Christmas, vacation, funny moment-- they were there. Now as adults, they are some of my dearest friends.

This is literally the cutest photo we have every taken. I'm not planning 
to ever show any new photos because we are not nearly this cute anymore.

After Tessa was born, I was so excited for Eli to have a sibling. I couldn't wait for the bond my siblings and I had to develop between them. I had those idyllic visions of them being best friends and holding hands all the time. But I have to be honest, they fight all. the. time. Not a day goes by without someone (Eli) pushing or someone (Tessa) screeching at their sibling. We have a lot of time outs and a lot of "sorry"s at our house.

This will probably be on our Christmas card this year.

But you guys, they LOVE each other. This sweet bond has begun to develop that is so precious to watch. Watching them fall in (sibling) love with each other has been incredible as a parent.


Tessa looks like she's planning to be super naughty, and Eli
looks like he has a secret. I have only fuzzy memory of what happened
next but I'm fairly certain somebody pushed somebody.

For Christmas this year my brother bought me the book Siblings without Rivalry (the irony! I know!).  I started reading it right after Christmas and found immediate, practical help. I've so appreciated Faber and Mazlish's wisdom on this topic. A major portion of the book focuses on you as the parent. I always figured my kids relationship was up to them, with me hoping and cheering on the sidelines. But the book takes a different path, challenging me as a parent.

I compare my children more than I'd like to admit. I imagine if you are a parent, you do too. I am often afraid that I am not treating them equally. Am I favoring one over other? Faber and Mazlish push this to the side, arguing "Children don't need to be treated equally. They need to be treated uniquely." And then, the authors push you to focus on bigger skills, those broader ideas that funnel down into good sibling relationships. They write, "Instead of worrying about [your children] becoming friends... [begin] to think about how to equip them with the attitudes and skills they'd need for all the caring relationships."

This book is practical, truthful, and relatable. The authors' honesty helps you feel like you really can make good relationships happen. In the words of Kathleen Kelly, "Read it! You'll love it!"

THIS is the framer. Love them.