New Year's Eve! How is it already New Year's Eve? Growing up, my parents hosted big NYE parties and it made Auld Lang Syne one of my most favorite, nostalgic songs ever. December 31st also happens to be my husband's birthday so we have two big reasons to celebrate. He is not a dessert guy, which somehow co-exists with my ridiculous sweet tooth, but there is one significant exception to this general rule: lemon. Lemon bars, lemon cake, lemon pie etc. can get him over to the dessert table so I've created a simple lemon cupcake recipe here and topped it with vanilla buttercream. There are only 8 ingredients in this cupcake recipe, they bake in about 20 minutes and the recipe gives you a dozen little blissful treats. I do subscribe to the motto that you can't be sad when holding a cupcake so let's get this recipe going, shall we?
For the Cupcake
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 cup vegetable oil
-1 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the Frosting
-1/2 cup butter at room temperature
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-3 cups powdered sugar
-4-5 TBS milk
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a muffin tin by spraying with non-stick spray and inserting cupcake liners. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. In another large bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the oil and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Stir together until well combined. Add in the lemon zest and juice and combine. Slowly add in the dry ingredients with the mixer on low and stir until just combined. After the mixer is turned off, use a rubber spatula to make sure that all dry ingredients are incorporated. Don't over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin with cupcake liners and fill approximately 2/3 full. I used 1/4-1/3 cup of batter in each liner. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Check to see if the cupcakes are done by inserting a toothpick into the middle and it should come out mostly clean. The tops will be starting to turn a light, golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
While the cupcakes cool, prepare the frosting by adding the room temperature butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together the butter and 1 cup of the powdered sugar. Keep the speed towards low to avoid a big cloud of powdered sugar as you continue to add ingredients. Once the initial sugar and butter are combined, add in the vanilla extract and 1-2 TBS of the milk. Slowly add in the remaining two cups of powdered sugar and another 1-2 TBS of milk (1 TBS at a time). Continue to mix until all combined. Once combined, increase the speed to medium/high to allow the mixer to whip the ingredients into a fluffy looking frosting. The frosting should stick to a knife when pulled out but be soft enough to spread.
Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost the tops. I used a Wilton 1M tip and pastry bag (available at Walmart, Michaels, craft stores or Amazon) to pipe a single layer rosette on these and there was some leftover frosting so this recipe will be enough to pile the frosting higher if you would like to decorate differently.
Wishing you all the happiest of New Year's and praying for those reflecting on a tough year gone by or challenges coming up. Peace, love and joy to you all!
Merry Christmas!!!! Is your house a mess from the Christmas frenzy and do family members occasionally ask you "what day is it?" That's how it is over here and I'm learning that this is the way to do the space between Christmas and New Year's. Until now, I've worked throughout the holidays, usually until Christmas Eve Mass and back in the office on the 26th or the 27th with on-call time in between, making me even more grateful for those who are working to keep our communities safe and healthy no matter the date and for my extra time with family this year.
As we roll into the new year...or decade....I'm reflecting on the different resources that had an impact on me in 2019. I recently wrote this post about books I read in 2019 and my reading plans for 2020. I'm still working on my vision for 2020 (no pun intended- I need contact lens or glasses to get out of bed in the morning) using Marie Forleo's Decade in Review format but I thought I'd share a few of these from different life areas in case they might resonate with something someone out there needs or would like more information or inspiration in that area.
Momspiration and Spiritual Life
Leah Darrow- Do Something Beautiful Podcast- Leah has a tremendous story from her time on the reality TV show of America's Next Top Model to her revelation about real beauty and finding her purpose in helping others, particularly women, realize their potential through God. She has a down to earth, humorous tone that's inspiring and she brings on amazing guests who are doing incredible things in this challenging world. She also recently started Lux University, which is an app and online curriculum dedicated to Catholic Women. I haven't signed up for Lux U yet but it has caught my eye and peaked my interest. She's a mom of 4 with #5 due soon and she shares those real moments that we can all relate to. She's also a fan of The Office, one of the greatest shows ever!
Stacy Sumereau- Called and Caffeinated Podcast- Also another beautiful momma, Stacy's podcast has diverse guests with a theme of discernment and learning God's will, which is pretty much the question of my life! All of the analyzing and agonizing over decisions and which way I'm supposed to go with something...and how do I know if I'm pushing my will or God's will? Is that nudge from me, the world or God? Stacy nor anyone else can answer these questions for me but covering this theme through the different perspectives of her various guests is helpful...and she also shares my love for large mugs of steaming, hot beverages so there's that too!
One Hail Mary at a Time- Kristin is a mom of 7 and works full time in corporate banking and she credits the Rosary as being her life raft. I've been following Kristin for a while and about a year and 1/2 ago or so she started doing a live rosary every morning via Instagram live and hundreds of people join in each morning- it's beautiful. And no worries if you miss it because the video stays up all day until the next one so you can jump in anytime. Kristin shares her real deal of motherhood and the juggling act with a clear passion for supporting women feel less frazzled, more in tune with God and finding the joy in the everyday moments and challenges.
Honestly Mommy- Stephanie's Instagram page pulls me in for real mom talk, humor, make up tips and all around good vibes. She has a sarcastic tone, which my dry sense of humor loves. She also juggles being a wife to a law enforcement officer which is something I relate to and understand shift work, safety concerns etc and it's nice to see law enforcement support out on social media. I also love her cleaning motivation! Pull up her Instastories on Mondays if you need a kind and funny kick in the pants to clean your house.
For the Home
Clean Mama- The "clean your whole house in one day" works for some people, but not so much for me. Becky over at Clean Mama has a free, printable, cleaning schedule that has a short list of tasks to do daily to help keep the clutter and dirt under control and one main cleaning task per day, six days per week. Instead of a spend your weekend cleaning approach or a clean one room per day approach, this weekly schedule is broken into similar tasks. For example, Tuesdays are for dusting. Wednesdays are for vacuuming and Thursdays are floor washing. Combine these main cleaning tasks with daily duties such as make beds, wash dishes, one load of laundry and clean/wipe the counters and the house feels so much more manageable. The schedule has space for missed tasks on Fridays as a catch all day and a rest day on Sunday so it's not a deal breaker if you miss something throughout the week.
I can't say that HGTV is banging down my door to film my immaculate house because I agree with the quote that cleaning your house while there are small kids in it is like brushing your teeth while chewing on Oreos, but this schedule has made a huge difference to me. I've missed days with the holiday craze but the cleaning is taking less time when I catch up as I've been hitting all of these areas regularly. Becky also has a decluttering plan getting underway for 2020, which I'm watching carefully as the amount of stuff in our house is my biggest hurdle to cleaning. It's no fun when I have to spend just as much time tidying up stuff so I can actually clean, right? Time to simplify!
Thred Up and Swap.com- These sites are my two favorite online, consignment stores. I like to browse local consignment stores as well but I don't always have the time to get out there and kids don't necessarily share my love of browsing patiently. I love thrift shopping for multiple reasons to include better for the environment, saving money and just the overall principle of not always buying and consuming new when there are perfectly good items out there that more than meet our needs. I also just ordered a clean out kit from Thred Up to help with some decluttering as my closet is over stuffed with things I haven't worn in months. Some of that is due to being pregnant, post-partum and then pregnant again but some of it is stuff I know that I'm just not going to wear again so I plan to donate some and send some into Thred Up for possible consigning or responsible recycling.
The Dave Ramsey Show Podcast- Ok, so we all know that money can be hard to talk about... Well, the beauty of podcasts is that you don't have to talk about it outside of your own home to get helpful information...you can just listen and discuss the information within your four walls if that's how you feel most comfortable. Although there is a ton of helpful information within the Dave Ramsey Show's online resources, the absolute must listen to sections, if there is anything heavy on your heart about improving your finances, are the debt free screams. Just google those and listen....real people, raw stories and teary eyed inspiration about families who have turned their lives around by setting goals, getting on the same page, working a budget and freeing themselves of consumer debt. And before you jump to the conclusion that these are all people who make tons of money to begin with, let me clarify for you that they are not. There is an example of every income and debt level on the spectrum within these stories.
Debt Kickin Mom- Angela is a mom of 4 who openly shares about getting a message of an over drafted credit card while away on vacation a few years ago. She sat up in her hotel room, late at night while her family was sleeping, trying to figure out how they would pay for the rest of the vacation. She totaled up their consumer debt up and was terrified. This fear was enough to propel her family into action and through following the Dave Ramsey Baby Steps, they paid off almost $80,000 in consumer debt and now have an emergency savings fund, are paying into retirement and just started their steps towards paying off their mortgage early. Angela's YouTube videos and Instagram page walk you through how they stayed the course on one income with four children (until she started a teaching job towards the very end of their Baby Step 2 journey) through contentment challenges, meal planning and focusing on what's truly important. Angela also just released a cookbook with her made from scratch, frugal recipes that she relied on during their journey and she still uses today!
Without over sharing, I can definitely say that both of these resources helped me and my family tremendously. I was "normal," as Dave Ramsey would say, in that I was once upon a time buried in student loans long after I was out of school and had plenty of other consumer debt to keep them company. I've talked a little bit about how we recently made a big change in that I left my more than full time job in a career field I had been in for almost 17 years and was very grateful for but left me little "present" time at home. That change would not have even been an option for our consideration when needed had we not come across these resources and made some changes a couple of years ago. It wasn't easy but it was worth it.
Speaking of going through a change, here are some podcasts to listen to about people who made big changes and totally kicked ass doing so...
Rachel Mansfield- Just the Good Stuff Podcast- Rachel has an amazing online presence around simple, whole food recipes with her new cookbook coming out in February and she recently launched a podcast. Rachel covers her personal story of being fired from her job in one of her episodes from December 2019, how she thought it was the end of the world and then launched into action trying to make a go of it with her own brand and she most certainly did it through gritty, hard work and passion. She also brought on guest Melissa, from Baked by Melissa, who shares a similar story. I'm so grateful to and inspired by people who are willing to be vulnerable and share their story of working through a big change...it brings life to possibility for others.
Jen Sincero- You Are a Bad Ass- This book is just downright amazing for life in general. I have it on audio book and I've listened to it multiple times when I need it. Most recently, I've gone back to it when I get all stressed and worrisome about my recent work change and I go back to some of the questions that Jen asks you to think about. The questions involve walking yourself through a worst case scenario of "and then what happens?" You drill down your worst case scenario by repeatedly answering that simple question as you unravel your worries...and guess what happens at the end when you've obsessed and visualized about how you've gone for something and completely failed and fallen flat on your face? Absolutely nothing that can't be fixed. Amen. Ta-da. It reminds me to stop taking it all so seriously.
Brendon Burchard- The Brendon Show- This man's energy is infectious. Contagious doesn't hit the mark because contagious, to me, means that you might catch something. Infectious is like "it's coming for you...." but in a good way! Brendon's Instagram quotes and nuggets are so inspiring about life, leadership, being the best version of yourself and not being afraid to be seen as small when starting out. That is the biggest fear that holds people back from starting on their dream! We don't want to be seen as starting small! We see "successful" people without seeing their entire journey and impose limiting beliefs on ourselves. Go check out his work for some no nonsense wisdom about both your ambition and your discipline...because one without the other isn't going to cut it for our one precious life!
Rachel Hollis- Ok, this lady needs no introduction from her best selling books and her amazing personal development brand. She has books, events, articles, podcasts and a social media presence that have so much to offer but I'm going to limit my reference here to one of her most recent videos entitled I Hope You Fail. Watch this before 2020 rolls in. Watch it again when it gets hard. Watch it again when you want to quit. Watch it again when you have successes. Failing and getting back up again is the only way to finish the race!
There you have it! I hope some of these resources might resonate with you and I wish you the best, brightest, healthiest and amazing 2020!
The countdown is on with less than 2 days to go until the big day. I've been intent on living this Advent season different than my typical frenzied Advent history and our recent change in me being home more has helped for sure. We've also politely declined an event here or there to avoid cramming the family schedule to being in a mad rush to get from one thing to the next with over tired and over stimulated small children. Sometimes the season is felt in the spaces in between.
I have a few last minute things to take care of but thankfully nothing that has me thinking "I'm never going to get this done." It's clear to me now that none of that frenzy was important or even necessary when I think back to previous years when I felt an insanely hectic pace. Didn't Christmas arrive on the 25th anyway? And didn't we enjoy the day with family regardless of some small detail not going as planned?
I bring you this super quick recipe in the event you find yourself wanting to put something homemade together for gifts or the dessert table, but you're feeling squeezed on time...and maybe energy. This recipe can be creatively modified countless different ways and it comes together in minutes. Here's what you'll need:
-1 package dark chocolate chips
-1 package milk chocolate chips
-1 package white chocolate chips
-Toppings such as dried cranberries, pistachios, coarse sea salt. Other options include goji berries, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, dried cherries, almonds, unsweetened coconut.
-Toppings such as festive M&Ms, candy canes, peppermints, peanut butter cups, coconut, peppermint patties or other candy bars.
Prepare two cookies sheets with parchment paper. Melt the dark chocolate chips and spread on the parchment paper of one tray. Top with crushed toppings such as the cranberries, pistachios, sea salt etc. for the "nice" Christmas bark." Place in the freezer for 30-60 minutes to set.
Melt the milk chocolate chips and spread on the other lined cookie sheet. Place in the freezer to set for 15 minutes. Melt the white chocolate chips and spread over top of the set milk chocolate chips and sprinkle the chopped more indulgent goodies such as peppermints, M&Ms, peanut butter cups etc. on the white chocolate. Return to the freezer to set for 30-60 minutes.
Once set, remove the trays from the freezer, chop up the bark and dazzle the dessert/snack table or place in tins or mason jars for small sweet treat gifts. You know your peeps! Maybe you've got a friend who is more naughty than nice or put both versions of the bark in your gift container for options!
Enjoy these couple of days my friends! I know this time of year can be tough for many and for many different reasons, but please know that I'm praying for you all and wish you a Merry Christmas!
New England wife, mom & home baker. Faith, food, fitness, baking, cooking and constantly cleaning my kitchen.