just because

As the sun's rays streamed into the living this morning, Virginia curled up in my lap. I secretly hoped it was the sign of a good week to come. I asked if she wanted to bake today, and she promptly replied "pink cake". So,  it was decided. We would be making cupcakes today…just because.

Lord knows I could've use these last week.

It was a tough one. The anniversary of my father's death is one I anticipate. I have 364 days to prepare, yet once the actual day dawns, my world comes crashing in. The ache in my heart balloons, filling me with infinite sadness from which I know I'll never be free. It sits there, dormant most times as I busy myself with life's to-do list.

There's something about the melancholy that strikes me particularly on the day, which incidentally has been stormy ever since the day we buried him. What was different about this year, though, is I realized why it's so difficult a day. The answer is not the obvious one. The loss of a loved one, your father, the man who's genes make up 50% of your own.

No, those aren't the real underlying causes for the grief I still experience.

My father and I had a very estranged relationship the years leading up to his death from pancreatic cancer. Years of alcoholism and abuse—towards my mother and sister, not myself (why do I always feel the need to point that out?), had battered whatever bonds had been hanging on by a thread.

The last Christmas Eve he was alive he called, and asked to see me. I flat out told him he didn't deserve the right. It was two weeks later that I learned he was dying.

Much of the remaining weeks are a blur, and the details etched in my mind are ones I wish would go away sometimes. Not always. Just sometimes to give me peace.

Each year that passes reminds me another of my own living has passed, and my list of dreams is getting longer while my time here gets shorter. Perhaps I wouldn't feel this way if my dad had died an older man. But he didn't. He was only 49 years old, and lived most them a tortured soul.

Why am I bringing any of this up?

Partly because this article triggered the feelings brooding inside at the moment.

I'm tired of people extolling their mighty opinions without a care for the people left when the dust settles. What a lovely world it must for reviewers to live in, where their opinion is all that seems to matter.

After reading Neil Genzlinger's article, I wondered what fellow bloggers would think about themselves. Would they start to scrutinize every word for proof that they discovered something about themselves or their lives in each blog post?

Genzlinger may have been talking about memoirs specifically, but isn't that what so many blogs are in some way? A chronicle of our lives, presented in our own words. Mine just happens to be peppered with recipes.

Is there any point to this post? Should I have kept it as a draft? Is it worthy of your time to read? Well, only you can decide that answer for yourself.

Will I regret publishing some random rambling? Maybe. Maybe not. But I've never lived my life worrying what others think, so why start now? All I can say is thank you for sticking with me. For giving my words meaning in your own life. And if whether they help heal your heart or get dinner on the table, then I am one step closer to realizing my own dreams.

Now, it's time for me to let your process your own thoughts. Mine have turned to the sprinkled speckled pink frosted cupcakes Virginia and I made today. She's a bossy little gal in the kitchen, and these were her creation come to life. Determined, demanding and never willing to settle for anything less than her heart's desire.

I can't imagine who she takes after.


golden vanilla cupcakes

makes one dozen

Something happened when I dabbed a bit of batter into my mouth when I developed this recipe last year. One swipe of the spatula and I was whisked away to a memory of licking the beaters when I was a kid.

Crazy as it sounds, it reminded me of  the boxed stuff, sans the chemical aftertaste.  My mom may not have been Betty Crocker, but she always made sure we had a birthday cake. Who cares if it was from a box—this is one case where it was the thought that counted.

So, I consider this homemade batter the best of both worlds. 

p.s. these directions may seem contrary to everything you've been told about making cakes. The wet and dry ingredients are added together, the batter is beaten on high speed—something we've all been told is a no-no for light and airy cakes. Well, just trust me here and you'll be rewarded with the most delicate crumb imaginable.

1 1/3 cups (5.75 ounces) all purpose flour

2 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder

1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup (168 ml) milk

8 tablespoons (4 ounces) butter, softened

3/4 cup (6 ounces) sugar

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Fill a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt until combined; set aside.

In a small measuring cup, whisk the milk and vanilla together until combined; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat again until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour in the milk and flour mixtures, and starting on low speed, mix until dry ingredients are combined into the wet ones. Turn speed up to high and beat for 10 seconds. Scrape down sides and beat for 10 more seconds.

Evenly spoon batter into the prepared muffin pan. Tap pans on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until tops are golden and a metal skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.


  • Karin van D.

    Thank you for sharing so openly on your blog. I am glad you don’t feel you have to hold back because of some cynical editor. I love to read your blog and your recipes. They make me think and they inspire me to bake.
    I wish you lots of strength with your loss and I hope you’ll be able to let the regrets behind you and realise you have responded to whatever you felt in your heart at those moments. There is no need to be sorry for that. *hug*

  • Robin (Hippo Flambe)

    My mother has been gone for 28 years now and the anniversary of her death is still a date I have to be careful around. Even if I am not conscious of the date, have not looked at the calendar and noted its significance, I am aware of it somehow. I have learned how to stack the day so I won’t collapse in tears over a small detail unrelated to my mother.
    That reviewer may not want to read your memoirs, or blogging words, but they resonate with me.

  • olga

    We have so so much to talk about when we see one another… And these cupcakes look lovely! especially the pink frosting. xo.

  • Jael

    So hard to think of those we’ve lost, especially under complicated circumstances — but oh, that little girl’s smile. There is so much more joy ahead.
    I was appalled by the anti-memoir article too. He seems to say some stories are more “worthy” than others. I say, it’s all in the telling.

  • Denise @ Creative Kitchen

    Hugs and prayers to you!! I enjoy your blog & am glad you didn’t censor yourself. The “personal” part of food blogs, the stories, the part that makes them the bloggers is what keeps me coming back again and again. Food blogs wouldn’t be interesting in the least if we just posted recipes and pictures. Don’t you agree? I get bored at AllRecipes because of that. Far before I began food blogging, I would search for a recipe in the google bar with the term “food blog” attached. I wanted personal, visual, etc.
    Looks like you had a great day! My 3 yr old’s smile and sweet innocent face really brightens up even my worst afternoon. I had one today as my 2 older girls were fighting and delaying in the cleaning of their room.
    Happy times 😉

  • Alyse

    I miss my dad every day. May 1st is my difficult day. He was so hard to be close with, but I kept trying, sometimes more than other times.
    I did not see my mother the last few years of her life. That is one of “those” stories. You would have to ask my sister.
    Thank you for your tenderness.
    Our boys are teenagers, but I love it when they cook or bake with me.

  • Elissapr

    Love how you mix the sadness with the sweet – and do it on your own terms. It’s your blog and you can say what you want…and those of us who are lukcy enough? We get to share in your thoughts…

  • Sara

    I’m truly touched! I know how difficult it must have been for you. Thank you for sharing. What a princess of a daughter you have…children make our lives worth living!

  • Angela

    Just letting you know I am glad to have read this. Definitely worthy of my time. And I think I’ve found a cupcake recipe to make next weekend 🙂

  • Krista

    My dad passed 2 years ago, we too were estranged for some years. After the birth of my daughter I reached out. He met his only grand daughter and my husband. The relationship was still strained, we spoke occasionally, saw each other a couple of times. I still found myself avoiding his phone calls. My dad committed suicide on October 9, 2008, we hadn’t spoken in 2 months. The last couple years have been filled with an hurt I never new existed. My day to day life goes on and I surpress the pain easily as I have a family to card for. But he’s never far from my mind and the regrets and “what if’s” are endless.
    Thank you for sharing your story and your recipes.
    I think my daughter would like some pink cupcakes to brighten our day.

  • Sharlene

    This was a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing despite that NY Times article. I can’t wait to try these cupcakes out and be reminded of the childhood I miss dearly.

  • Barbara | VinoLuciStyle

    I almost skipped the link to the reviewer that you included; assuming someone’s insensitivity had no cause but felt I couldn’t do that and really respond effectively if I did. And I have to admit, I can see his point. I don’t think he out and out condemned memoirs but the abundance of ones that seems to not share as a memorial at all but a sensationalism of a life that is really too often just ordinary.
    That being said, I don’t think his review of books is a correlation to what we write in our blogs. We build an audience of readers who have come to know us in a more personal way. Though our efforts often include recipes, we have the thread of our lives in those stories and people come to know us, maybe even care about us and so in sharing with them I believe there is an element of trust that is more possible than ever if our writing was done in book form.
    I always feel privileged when someone shares the bad with the good; that you trust your readers enough to let us see beyond the perfect. It humanizes you and in allowing us those feelings humanizes us too.
    I share with you a lot of similarities in my relationship with my mother who died when she was 48 albeit at her own hand. The alcohol and the abuse. You have made me wonder why I don’t feel what you do, why I don’t even remember the day. But I do know my heart hurts for you and sincerely thank you for sharing and letting me do the same…you are loved.

  • Fuji Mama

    So glad you didn’t keep this post as a draft. I think that even if we can’t learn something about ourselves from a post, a post almost always teaches others something about us. Part of blogging is the community. It is through sharing yourself that our lives are enriched. XOXO

  • Rochel @ barefootandcooking

    Keep dreaming… it’s drives you. That’s a good thing.
    Do I worry about finding meaning in every post I write? NO. Most of the times my blog is upbeat, fun, and humorous. It’s real. It’s honest. It feeds my passion. That’s enough for me.

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Obviously there are other things in our lives besides food and it’s impossible not to include those things in our posts.
    I hope these cupcakes, and the time spent with your beautiful girl, brought you some comfort.

  • merry jennifer

    I agree with everyone who already commented – a beautiful, honest post. And that – the honesty of your words – is why I continue to come back to In Jennie’s Kitchen.
    Also? I echo what Kim said in the very first comment. Looking forward to meeting you soon…and giving you a big hug.

  • emily

    It was so wonderful meeting you today. Beautiful post. I hope to speak with you again. I can tell you are someone it is special to know.

  • Janae

    You know, it’s funny because sometimes I question why I bother having a blog, and sometimes I think it’s stupid, and it’s so easy to get competitive about it, etc etc etc. But then I always remind myself that I’m writing it for me, and also for my daughter. People can read if they want, or not. I’m grateful for the readers I do have, and I hope I can be a happy spot in their day. Like another commenter said, I can find recipes anywhere; I enjoy food blogs for the personal connection. Simple as that.
    So sorry for the loss of your father. The anniversary of my grandmother’s passing is coming up, and this will be the first one. Not sure yet what to expect. It’s the first time I’ve ever lost someone close to me.
    PS. Just want to point out, on another note, that I’ve never commented before but I really enjoy your blog 🙂

  • Georgie

    Thank you for your heartfelt post and for the super yummy cupcake recipe, of course. I’m grateful I discovered you through twitter and equally grateful for this post and that you published it.
    Exposing our feelings is hard… don’t I know it; I struggle with writing daily, for many reasons, one especially the recent loss of my sister to cancer, so I’m super sad these days. I hope to write about how beautiful she was one day soon – when I can articulate my thoughts and feelings into one cohesive sentence. It’s not today, that’s for sure!
    I too lost my father who also struggled with addiction, leaving me with tainted memories of childhood. I learned to forgive him… this gives me peace, rather than fueling my pain with resentments and harsh words. I’ve had 10 years to integrate my father’s passing – time does heal, as cliche as that may sound.
    And for the editor – times are a changing.