Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cupcake? Yes, please...

As I mentioned before, I'm on what seems to be a never ending search to find my "calling". I mean, besides being a mom,of course. I've dabbled in everything from planning to go straight to beauty school only to end up in sales, to drawing tattoos, to playing with medicine, considering a career in interior design while dreaming of becoming an event planner, and now back to being a full-time mom again. For a moment I decided that maybe I should just accept that being a mom might just BE my calling. Sure, I can put together a vase of flowers. I know a thing or two about taking a nice picture, making a house a home... I can draw, I can write, I can organize, bake, sow... But maybe that just makes me a really great housewife. What more important job in the world is there? But, until the government decides that our hard work and dedication is worth getting a paycheck... I gotta do SOMETHING. I seriously miss the notion of making a profit in exchange for the time I put in to a job done. I miss the freedom of knowing you can buy that really cute outfit without having to prioritize it with having to pay your cable bill. Not to mention, actually have a REASON for the really cute outfit. I miss... Being "Out there." You know where. The land of alarm clocks and adult interaction. That world where you have deadlines and places to go and people to see. Lunch breaks. Reading materials and conversations that have nothing to do with poop color or itsy bitsy spiders that crawl up water spouts. On the other hand, I genuinely love being home. And if I were at work, I'd still be obsessed with poop color and I'd want to sing about how the sun dried up all the rain. I hate the thought that someone else would have to share these details with me because I wouldn't be there. In here. With my baby. So working outside the home isn't that SOMETHING for me. Although, I am aware that someday I won't be given the option to decide. As for now... I've been fortunate to be given the opportunity to stay home, watch my baby grow, be home to pick up the kiddos, be home for the sick days, appointments, and figure out what that SOMETHING will be. After getting a glimpse of life as a single mom and having been raised by one of the strongest women known to humanity myself, this is an opportunity that cannot and will not go wasted. I think, I've got it. Aside from an online baby boutique... (but let's focus on one thing here) I present you with... The cupcake. Something about the sight of a perfectly assembled, vanilla or chocolate baked confection with it's curly whipped topping and sprinkled with pretty colored candies can turn the hardest of men to a giddy little boy. I remember sitting in a gray dreary office and the moment a cupcake crosses anyone's sight, there's a party SOMEWHERE in the building and I'll be damned if I ain't there! And if I'm not, please for the love if God, save me a cupcake =] There's this saying, "Good things come in small packages." You might not have been aware... But they were talking about a cupcake. And POSSIBLY babies, I really don't know, but cupcakes are a perfect example! Personally, they're like a symbol of domesticity. (Is that even a word?) They prove my belief in that you don't need much to have it all. Just this once, you can have your cake AND eat it too! For now, I'm taking the time to put together some recipes, experiment, brush up on my cake decorating skills. Who knows? This might turn into something and I really hope it does. For as long as I could remember I've had this little obsession with these treats. So much so that during my tattoo drawing phase, I seriously considered a huge cupcake tattoo on my body for the world to see. During my internship as a pharmacy tech, the colors of some of the pills I counted were inspiration for a color of sprinkle I'd like to someday see sitting on top of beautiful smooth, white frosting. Years ago, I came across a cupcake bib and decided I wanted another baby girl in the near future... Anyways... Point is... I think it was meant to be. Why this never occurred to me before now? I'll never know. But enough talking... I got me some baking to do!

Monday Morning Rush...

I rolled out of bed Monday morning... Struggling to keep my eyes open, I dragged my feet through our living room... the babies toys scattered across the floor. I could hear the floor under my feet begging for a good sweep & moppin'... Eh. I'll get to it later. Stepping over the baby gate and tumbling into the kitchen, I cringe at the sight of dishes piled high in the sink. Last nights dinner still sitting on the stove. I storm into the kids room... pull their blankets off and demand that they wake up and put their uniforms on. I leave their room, backtracking my way back to my bed and diving face first into my pillow. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn't make a Monday any less pleasant. I fall back to sleep, wake up 2 minutes before I need to leave the house, jump into a pair of my fiancees sweats, load the kids in the van and I'm off. Aggravated and sick of this grey, cold, wet Connecticut weather. On our way to school, my daughter and I argue about the Science project she's slacking off on. We get to school and as she opens the door to step out of the van, I called after her. "I love you so much. Give me a hug..." She looks at me and smiles and hugs me tight before she takes off. Middle school already. Where did the time go?
My son gets dropped off next. It's almost time for him to line up with his classroom. This morning they're gathering in the cafeteria. I hug him and kiss him goodbye and tell him that I love him very much. He tells me he loves me too.. more than once. He is after all, mommas baby. He gets out and I watch as he walks up to the school. The principal opens the door for him and I see my son disappear safely inside. Or so, I like to believe. I decide to wait a while... stressed. Pensive. Shocked. In disbelief. This morning all of the focus on every radio station is on Newtown. On the Sandy Hook "massacre"... I have to shake off the thoughts.
I look up to see my son running as fast as he possibly could to the van. He bursts through the passenger door... "MOM! The M&M's for the ginger bread house! I was supposed to bring them in today! If I don't I won't be able to make them with the rest of the class!"
DAMN IT!!! I told him to remind me over the weekend. I promised I'd get them. It completely slipped my mind. Ugh! I look at the time... 8:20... we have 10 minutes. I have him run back into the school to get his book bag and jacket.. (another 3 minutes pass.) Shit. HURRY UP. He jumps in the car and we stop at the CVS nearby... 8:37... he's late. As I park the car I realize... I left my purse at home. FUCK! I look at him and tell him, "I'm sorry but I'm not gonna go ALL the way home and back HERE to then go back to school. You're already late!"
I watch this big 9 year old boy fall apart in tears. The water works and the sobbing came so quickly it caught me off guard and my anxiety quickly got the best of me... "OK! RELAX! STOP WITH THE DRAMA!"
I start to head back home in an unfamiliar direction. The vans gas tank is marking nearly empty and I'm lost with no purse. After 5 minutes of driving in circles I had to stop and pull out the GPS... but not without my throwing a fit about the fact that I was in this predicament over some M&M's. "I'M TAKING YOU BACK TO SCHOOL! Like it or NOT! DEAL WITH IT!" But I promised. The GPS leads me back into some familiar territory and before I know it I'm back home.8:52... I jump out of the van, fumble with my keys, sprint to my door and rush inside. I quickly give an explanation to my mother in law who is keeping an eye on my 1 year old who's sick with pneumonia and run back out again. A smile on my boys face and with a sense of relief that he'll be joining in on his classroom activity.. we drive quietly to the CVS down the street from his school. 9:01... as we park the van and rush into through the automatic doors he's excited as he tells me his plans for his gingerbread house. He immediately spots a classmate who from the looks of it... dad forgot his candy too. I couldn't help but feel just a little better. I'm not such a horrible mom after all! We pick up our M&M's as I point the lost dad over towards the gum drops... we pay for our merchandise and we go.
I pull into the school parking lot at 9:12 am... an entire forty-two minutes late. My boy happily stuffs his candy into his book bag and turns to look at me with his happy eyes and pink frost kissed cheeks. He tosses his arms around my neck and gives me a great big THANK-YOU-YOU'RE-THE-BEST hug. Where I would normally rush him out the passenger door... I hold him extra tight. I let the minutes roll by as we extend our normal goodbye. Kiss. Hug. "I love you." Hug. "I love you more. Be good." Hug. Kiss. "OK, mom. I love you." Hug. Kiss. He lets go. He throws his book bag over his shoulder and skips out of the van... towards the school double doors... and he's on his way to class.
It didn't matter that he was tardy. The rage I felt just moments prior over chasing these candies down had completely melted away. I felt just a little more awake. So much happier. Grateful beyond words. And at the very same time... my heart ached for the 26 families that woke up this morning only to realize they're living a nightmare.
And for the ones who's lives barely just begun... while they're off among the clouds...
Twenty mothers woke up Monday morning with nowhere to rush off to. Twenty. Twenty less gingerbread houses made. Twenty less shining, eager faces to wake up to Christmas morning. Twenty less blankets to be pulled back and tushies dragged out of bed. Twenty less lunches to pack. Twenty. Twenty less rug rats contributing to mommy's morning rush. Twenty less set of baby teeth to brush. Twenty.
Twenty mothers woke up Monday morning wishing they could be in my shoes... Driving circles in search of some over priced candy for their very special little One.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Perfect Red Velvet Cupcake...

I was never a die hard fan of red velvet cake. I really never understood what the craze was over this flavor. One night, the hubby and I watched an episode of D.C. Cupcakes where for Valentine's Day the line of people practically wrapped around the building. Inside the shop, thousands of red velvet cupcakes were in production throughout the day to supply the demand for these red velvets. I couldn't help feeling I was missing something. The red velvets I was used to were dry and had very little flavor... crumbled in my mouth... and left a strange after taste. (Probably from the amount of food coloring.) So I googled "the perfect red velvet cupcake"... after sifting threw a few recipes, I came across a blog, Brown Eyed Baker. Her complaints and experience with this flavor cake was exactly the same as mine (she felt my pain) and went on a quest to come up with the perfect red velvet recipe. When I say she nailed it... SHE NAILED IT. I followed her recipe exactly except for the vinegar. Her recipe calls for white distilled vinegar... I used apple cider vinegar as advised by the ladies of D.C. Cupcakes because apple cider vinegar is naturally sweeter than regular vinegar. We are after all making a cake, right? Either way... with the touch of cocoa added (genius)... there's no going wrong here. When we first bit in to this cupcake, the one thing we noticed from the very first bite was it's rich, chocolaty flavor... but it STILL tasted very much like red velvet. A very rich, smooth, dare I say, SEXY red velvet. To top it off (literally) the cream cheese frosting... PERFECT. I've played around with butter cream and personally it's way too sweet. I find myself scraping most of the icing off the top of my cupcakes and spreading the rest evenly over the cake with each bite. This cream cheese frosting recipe I have used over chocolate and strawberry cupcakes as well... divine! It's sweet, but not too sweet. The taste of the cream cheese comes through just enough to enhance the taste of the cupcake without overpowering it or sending me into a diabetic seizure like most. In other words... It's a winner!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
as shared on BrownEyedBaker.com

Yield: 12 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar (I used apple-cider vinegar)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
4ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.

2. On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter get color.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

5. Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.

6. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.

7. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

8. To make the frosting: Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all in incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.
*Note: This recipe can be doubled to make an 8 or 9 inch layer cake.
(Recipe adapted from Joy the Baker, originally from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

To add a finishing touch to this already perfect recipe, I sprinkled crushed walnuts over the top... Glass of Cupcake Moscato in hand... (and a sippy cup of milk) Positively SINFUL! Enjoy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Just a little about Us...

It's the one day every little girl dreams of. The big fluffy dress. The white horse and carriage. The reception in Cinderellas castle with millions of lush, fragrant flowers pouring over every meticulously placed detail of your wedding day. You run off on your honeymoon and 9 months later you're welcoming home your precious little bundle and blah di blah blah blah. This is far from my reality. Both my fiancé and I are divorced after 10+ years with our exes. The good thing about this is that after that long in a marriage, you make a lot of mistakes. In making those mistakes, you learn a whole lot about yourself and the person you are and want to become. You learn what really matters to you and what motivates you. You know what you want in a partner and the things you can live without. And after what we endured with our divorces and feeling we'd spent a good chunk of our lives devoted to complete strangers. We both still feel life just isn't life without someone to share it with. And so, on a boring late night online... We found each other. We became instant best friends. We spoke about and debated about anything and everything under the sun. He lived in Connecticut. I lived in Florida. Yet somehow we managed to keep each other company through every second of our days through text, pic messaging, IM and video chats. I accompanied him to his kids doctor appointments and he reminded me to pick up AA batteries on my grocery runs. Eventually we realized, we found everything we ever wanted in each other. And now that we have, we promised ourselves not to repeat the same mistakes we made our past relationships. Kind of cliche. Maybe even typical of what two divorcees may say just before taking the plunge... Again. But we don't care. We're two fools in love with being in love and it's totally ok because we're in love with each other.
I've contributed 2 kids into our new family, he has 3. Between the two of us that's five all under the age of 11 whom we lovingly refer to as The Furious Five. The modern day Ecuadorian/ Puerto Rican Brady Bunch. And because we'd forgotten just how we ended up having 5 "surprise" pregnancies (because with each surprise life was just so wonderful), we were reminded of just how little control we had of ourselves and our lives with baby #6. Our precious Mayah. This last and final pregnancy (I promise!) came at an excruciatingly difficult time in both of our lives. Not to mention, it had been eight years since my last baby. Going back to dragging 80 pound baby bags and strollers the size of most SUV's just wasn't what I needed at that moment. It took about 2 seconds after the positive pregnancy test to remind myself... This baby is a gift... And the timing couldn't have been more perfect. Mayah is the ray of light that shone thru my darkest days. One flash of that toothless grin and I turn to mush. Our little bird has brought an enormous amount of joy, smiles and hope to not only my fiancĂ© and I, but to our Furious Five as well.
So here I am in Connecticut. Excited about my new life. Engaged to my best friend. Mom and future step-mom to a tribe of six. Trying to put together the wedding of my dreams with a shoestring budget. Trying to rekindle my love for anything and everything artistic in order to find my calling in life... you know... besides being a mom.  And wondering how I'm ever going to squeeze this size 14 body into a size 8 wedding gown.  Wishful thinking? Maybe. But, oh how I love a challenge!

Some of our most precious memories at a glance...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

On breastfeeding in public...

Let me just start off by saying, i have nothing against bottle feeding. I'm not one of those die hard "Breast is Best" type of mothers that cringe at the sight of a woman putting a bottle in her babies mouth. I wanted to do both breast and bottle mostly because it DOES allow for more freedom. And besides, I was bottle fed and I turned out pretty danm ok if i do say so myself. (At least by most standards.) But personally, I still feel breast is best. My 2 oldest were the picture of infant health. Rarely a cold or ear infection in sight. They're at the top of their game in reading and comprehension. And like any mother would, I only want what's best for my little one. And it turns out, breastfeeding at the time is what works for both me and baby. Since breastfeeding is a huge part of my life and I pretty much manage my day around Mayahs feeding schedule... I decided to look up the subject on Twitter. It would be nice to meet other moms and their take and advice on the subject. I regretted it. "Why the fuck is some Mexican chic breastfeeding in the middle of the mall?!" (Do YOU eat your cheeseburgers in the same bathroom stall you and hundreds of other strangers pee in everyday?) "Breastfeeding women should hide those huge nipples!" (Jealous much? Here's some advice genius... Don't look.) Personally, I choose to nurse my baby privately. After almost 4 years of breastfeeding under my belt (I only had 2 kids before Mayah so you can do the math as to what their ages were when they stopped), lets just say, i rather keep my boobs for my own eyes. My favorite places to go accommodate to nursing mothers, (IKEA, the mall). I discovered the ability to track down every store in my area with the most spacious and comfortable family fitting rooms. I purposely keep my grocery runs short and sweet. With that said, it definitely occurred to me that for those breast-feeding mothers who let it all hang during baby's lunch time, it's just their way of giving the world the MIDDLE FINGER! Just a subtle way of telling those people who can't help staring in disgust to go shove it! Boobs are for babies. They're not just there for decoration, I can assure you. Noone says much of all the boys walking around with their entire boxer covered (thank God) butt hanging outta their skinny jeans or 12 year old girls with their crack showing over the top of their super low rise jeans. Well, I do. THAT's something to be disgusted with! One of the countless benefits of breastfeeding is that later in life, breastfed babies are linked to having a higher I.Q. I can guarantee, had more women chosen to breastfeed their babies back when these apparently misinformed and ignorant people were born... They'd think twice before saying something so stupid.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Friggin insomnia...

I'm one of the immensely blessed to have a baby that's slept through the night since barely 3 months old. Yet here I am with visions of settling in suburbia, wedding color schemes, potential business ventures and tomorrow's dinner all dancing in my head. I gotta remember to take this whole pursuit of happiness thing one day at a time. So for now... Goodnight world!